Helen Walker: Time for sector representatives to stand up for us

We need to defend the little people who make up the majority of charities, writes the chief executive of TimeBank

Helen Walker
Helen Walker

Reading about the US Charity Defense Council got me thinking about the inadequacy of our own defence as a sector.

But how mind-blowingly depressing is it that we need to defend ourselves? We are the good guys, supporting those least able to support themselves.

Why are our existing bodies not fighting our corner? First, we are represented by organisations that, in my view, just don't act for small charities. Instead, they do high-profile reviews of fundraising techniques or lobby for us to take on payment-by-results contracts that those of us living hand to mouth could never contemplate.

Inclusivity and equality are key values to us, but only 32 per cent of charity chief executives are women. Maybe that's because the same men representing us are being parachuted into our sector with their business, military or public affairs expertise to cosy up to government and show us how it's done "properly". Where's their passion, enthusiasm, the capacity to achieve everything with nothing, to change things?

And then we have the Kids Company syndrome that is terrifying our boards at a time when we need them to stand tall, take risks and recognise that, if reserves are for a rainy day, right now it's pouring down.

We've been doing more with less for the past five years and are about to snap. We need to defend the little guys who make up 95 per cent of registered charities. They should be represented by those who know what it's like to get their hands dirty, who daily face decisions about closure, the rejection of funding bid after funding bid and greater need by those we support.

So I am going to embrace the American desire to defend our borders - it's time we stood up for ourselves.

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