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Think tanks should be pressured to say who provides their funding

Your article on whether think tanks should be charities illustrates how difficult it is to define charitable purpose (February 2016, pages 30-33). Hiding behind the charitable purpose of education fools no one, but if Policy Exchange gives the Conservatives good ideas and IPPR helps Labour's thinking, that is all to the good.

What concerns me is not whether think tanks lean to left or right, but whose interests they represent. The website grades think tanks from A to E, according to their transparency. It is striking how they rate the think tanks - all of them charities - that have spent years waging a sustained and all too successful campaign against the planning system and, in particular, the green belt: Policy Exchange (D), the Institute of Economic Affairs (D) and the Adam Smith Institute (E). Who is funding this campaign? One can only assume it is individuals and businesses who stand to make big money from a weakened planning system, and who gain credibility by hiding behind supposedly disinterested educational charities.

I do not think the answer is more regulation - I read Friedrich Hayek at an impressionable age - but, whether they are charities or not, think tanks should be put under much greater pressure to say where they get their funding.

Shaun Spiers, Chief executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, London SE1

Bonuses for fundraisers could be detrimental to the team ethic

While I have no issue with some form of bonus structure for fundraisers, with donor satisfaction and/or trust being an element of this, I think the suggestion put forward by Rogare is too simplistic and potentially dangerous for charities to implement (February, pages 42-43).

First, the inference is that fundraising is all geared towards individual giving - it isn't. Most charities seek to develop a diverse portfolio of income streams, many of which are organisational, such as trusts and corporates. This seems to be completely ignored in the proposition.

Second, paying by reference to donor satisfaction and/or trust could result in a negative financial contribution to the charity from the fundraising team. A charity could have lots of very happy supporters who are giving very little.

Third, a fundraising team needs to work as a collective bound by a common, goal-sharing responsibility for team successes and failures. Individual excellence should, of course, be recognised, but there are lots of other ways in which this can be done.

Any significant change to the current remuneration system that does not support the development of the fundraising team as a team, and which could jeopardise budgeted net profit, is inherently wrong.

Mark Atkinson, Founder, VCSchange (posted online)

Please send letters to or Third Sector, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3SP, or comment online at


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