Little at Large

Volunteer or die young as the golden decade fades

Mathew Little
Mathew Little

- The book - The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better has been on the bedside tables of one or two politicians recently.

As well as spawning a voluntary organisation, the Equality Trust, it contains some interesting findings: one is that being a member of a voluntary organisation makes you less likely to die from such ailments as heart disease. US research shows the more voluntary groups there are in particular states, the lower the death rate. Maybe recruitment campaigns for the sector should be blunt: "Volunteer or die young!"

- There were some contrasting messages from the podium at the NCVO annual conference last week. In the morning, Conservative energy and former charities spokesman Greg Clark lambasted the past 10 years as a "decade of irresponsibility", characterised by a "reckless disregard for the future wellbeing of society" on the part of the Government and the market. Later, however, NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington was reminiscing about the "golden years" for the sector up to the financial crash. I'm confused.

- John Burton, chief executive of the World Land Trust, seems to be carving out a role as sector iconoclast. A while ago, his blog berated charities for keeping money in reserve rather than spending it on the cause. Now his ire has been directed to fundraising. Criticising a Third Sector article for its underlying assumption that chugging is acceptable, he writes, "to many of us operating charities, it is a totally and unequivocally unacceptable method, which should be banned". It would be interesting to know how many "many of us" is.

- The Scout Association in the UK has responded to the horrific private member's bill, tabled by the Ugandan MP who happens to be chairman of the Uganda Scout Association. If passed, the bill would introduce capital punishment for gay people. The proposal is "incompatible with our interpretation of the values of the worldwide Scouting movement", says chief executive Derek Twine. Fair enough, but others' interpretation of those values, though nowhere near the Ugandan one, are not quite so clear cut. The Boy Scouts of America, for example, refuses to accept gay people as volunteers.

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer, mathew.little@haymarket.com

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