Mathew Little


Social enterprise in the voluntary sector needs long-term investment and customised training and support, according to delegates at a workshop called 'How commercial can charity be?'.

Cathy Pharoah, CAF's research director, who is currently carrying out research on social enterprise, said: "Social enterprise in the voluntary sector is developing, but there are quite a lot of challenges and development work to do. We need consultants who not only provide business training, but advice that is totally adapted to the needs of organisations." She said that enterprises also needed investors that were prepared to stay with them for the long term.

The CAF research, which is being undertaken jointly with Manchester University, will be published in full in the spring.


Chief Charity Commissioner John Stoker told the conference that changes in the Charity Commission's role, to be outlined in the forthcoming charities bill, will be "reform not revolution". He said that more stress on the need for charities to demonstrate their public benefit would mean that the commission would have to change its advice on public benefit: "This seems destined to take on greatly increased significance for the future." But he added that the new public benefit requirements "will not mean wholesale changes to the entitlement of existing charities to their charitable status."

In future the Commission will work in partnership with charities, Stoker predicted, through initiatives such as the upcoming GuideStar charity information database and NCVO's Collaborative Working Unit.


Joanna Van Driel, executive director of fundraising and communications at the Terrence Higgins Trust, told delegates about the charity's experience of 13 mergers in the past four and a half years. She focused in particular on the largest merger with London Lighthouse, which took place in October 2000.

Van Driel said that the mergers had brought financial benefits, and that the Trust had grown steadily, with turnover now at more than £12m. But she cautioned that any merger must be entered into willingly by both parties.


CAF announced the appointment of a new chairman at the conference. Lord Cairns is currently chairman of venture capital firm CDC Group. He is also a trustee of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. He commented: "I am convinced of the enormous potential ahead for this vital charity. I have known for many years of the important role that CAF has played in the development of charitable activity in the UK and internationally."

Cairns was previously chairman of VSO and, during a career in the City, chief executive of SG Warburg. He succeeds Sir Brian Jenkins as chairman, while Jenkins takes over as CAF president from Sir Peter Baldwin, now retired.

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