Kate Rogers: How networks can lead to change for the better

As the lines between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors become increasingly blurred, where does charity end and business start, asks our columnist

Kate Rogers
Kate Rogers

I am fortunate that my work allows me to collaborate with people in the corporate, voluntary and public sectors. It is increasingly clear to me that this cross-sector collaboration is essential if we are to continue to develop and deliver better outcomes for society. I have learned a great deal from working with all three sectors and believe that businesses, charities and government have much to learn from each other.

The Charity Commission has recently updated its guidance on grant funding of non-charities, confirming that grant-making charities can further their purposes by issuing grants to organisations outside the voluntary sector. I welcome this, because I believe the lines between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors are becoming increasingly blurred. The corporate sector, encouraged by a more socially aware consumer, is looking towards "profit with purpose" and emphasising responsible business practices. Charities are increasingly turning to social enterprise to diversify from voluntary income. So where does charity end and business start?

In investment terms, this blurring of the lines manifests itself in the growing importance of environmental, social and governance factors in our analysis of which companies to invest in: not only because this is what clients want, with more and more wishing to adopt responsible investment approaches, but also because it is important in order to make the right financial decisions.

Further along the spectrum from financial returns towards social returns or social impact, we are seeing an increasing number of foundations choosing to engage in social or impact investment. The size of this market isn't limited by the amount of money available to invest, but by the right investment opportunities. Charities seeking funding will need to adopt a more "corporate" mentality to take advantage of these opportunities, making this an area ripe for cross-sector collaboration.

Earlier this year I sat on a panel at the European Foundation Centre's annual conference to discuss how investor networks can help deliver better outcomes for charities with assets. I spoke about the Charity Investors Group and the impressive results yielded by the collaboration between our members, which come from the corporate and voluntary sectors, meaning we are able to share perspectives, identify needs and deliver solutions.

A useful example is the recent launch of the Teknometry CIG Charity Fund Universe. I am thrilled that Charity Investors Group members have come together to share investment data. The resulting peer group will be a valuable comparator for charity investors. With more than 1,300 charity portfolios and a value of £15bn, it represents about 15 per cent of all invested UK charitable assets.

I believe networks have the potential to unlock powerful collaborations and would encourage you to get involved. Come to the Charity Investors Group, engage with membership organisations, and value advocacy and policy. Collectively we can achieve change, and we are much more likely to succeed if we work together.

Kate Rogers is head of policy at Cazenove Charities

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