Former charities minister accuses large charities of putting money ahead of the cause

Rob Wilson writes in an exclusive piece for Third Sector that 'a surprising number' of big charities 'feel their good work sets them above criticism'

Rob Wilson when in office
Rob Wilson when in office

Former charities minister Rob Wilson has accused large charities of acting like "corporate machines" and putting the "flow of money" ahead of the welfare of staff and the needs of beneficiaries.

In an exclusive opinion piece for Third Sector, Wilson says a "surprising number" of big charities "feel that their good work sets them above criticism" and they have too become "preoccupied with their public image".

He says: "It is easy to understand why big charities have fallen into the trap of thinking they should largely be immune to criticism – in their view it gets in the way of all the good they are trying to do.

"Keeping the flow of money coming in has become more important in some charities, such as those involved in international aid, than the welfare of staff and the service to benefactors. They have become corporate machines when it comes to money."

He says that large charities "need to take a long, hard look at themselves" and many of their problems are "cultural and not systemic throughout a very diverse sector".

Trustees, he says, also have an important role to play and "must insist on the openness and accountability of their charity, holding the leadership fully to account".

Chief executives, he says, "must stop fearing criticism that might lose donors, embrace it and be first to highlight things that have gone wrong".

He also calls on the charity sector to end the "cacophony of voices, putting across diverging views" when crises occur. Instead, he argues, the sector needs "a single recognised voice and spokesperson" putting its case across to the wider public.

Wilson says Baroness Stowell’s appointment as chair of the Charity Commission has been "seriously undermined" by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s decision to object to her appointment.

Third Sector subscribers can read the full article here.

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