Letters: Don't forget SSAFA's contribution to the war effort

Comments by readers on Third Sector stories

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later to become the Queen Mother, taking part in an SSAFA appeal during the First World War
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later to become the Queen Mother, taking part in an SSAFA appeal during the First World War

Don't forget the work of SSAFA, now and during the Great War...

Delighted as I was to read Third Sector's article on the work of charities during the First World War, I was disappointed to find a glaring omission: SSAFA – formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association – was the only national military charity supporting the forces community when war was declared in 1914.

Indeed, when war broke out, it was SSAFA the government called upon to deliver support to the families of the men who had gone to the front. At its request, the charity expanded its volunteer network to more than 50,000 volunteers in a matter of months. It was also appointed as agent of the National Relief Fund, which raised £5m in the first eight months of the war.

SSAFA continues to believe that support for forces families is key to supporting servicemen and women, past and present. As the nation's oldest tri-service charity, we are immensely proud of the fact that, not only were we there for forces families in 1914, but we are still here for our serving personnel, past and present, and their families today.

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, chief executive, SSAFA, London EC3

... and the RSPCA helped to treat about 2.5 million injured animals

Having read your feature on the charity sector's involvement in the First World War, we wanted to draw your attention to the work of the RSPCA during this time.

The society set up the Fund for Sick and Injured Horses, which raised more than £250,000, including a generous donation from King George V, and the money was used to set up 13 large field hospitals to rehabilitate horses, and to buy motorised and horse-drawn ambulances to carry the injured animals. Thanks to these efforts, the RSPCA was instrumental in returning 85 per cent of horses back to active service.

The Army Veterinary Corps, with the RSPCA as an auxiliary, treated about 2.5 million animals during the First World War and the society even received a letter of thanks from Field Marshal Douglas Haig for its work. The fund also provided thousands of waterproof rugs, medicine, veterinary equipment, hoof picks, hay and 50,000 books on horse care.

The RSPCA is now working on developing an anthology of stories with a special focus on the AVC and courageous animal rescues as well as accounts from relatives of those who fought.

David Bowles, head of external affairs, RSPCA, Horsham, West Sussex

No matter what the public thinks, rebrands are usually good value

I read with interest the news story about the public viewing charity rebrands as a waste of money. I'm not worried about public perception, especially on topics where the questions inevitably cause knee-jerk, negative reactions.

Having gone through or led several rebrands, I have to say that they were always essential and represented good value in donor relationship-building.

Good value also came from involving constituents, including potential donors, in the process. The money was spent appropriately, without pinching pennies and without being profligate.

Catherine Demetriadi, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Give bean counters a break – restricted funds are a fact of life

Stephen Pidgeon believes the charities Statement of Recommended Practice is a brake on fundraising. There are a number of misconceptions with this piece that should be addressed.

First, Pidgeon puts the blame for statements in fundraising literature about how the funds will be used at the feet of "bean counters". Wrong. This is ancient trust law. Accountants do not want to have to deal with the complications of restricted funding any more than fundraisers do. However, our common law system means that a donor may stipulate what their funding should be used for. Accountants are helping charities and their fundraisers to ensure that restrictions are not inadvertently created. However, where a donor places an obligation on the charity, this must be reflected in the accounts.

Pidgeon then queries why accountants are not more creative and do not devise accounts in different forms for different purposes. The full cost recovery model of accounting that he alludes to has been around for many years in charities, as in other businesses. It is even encapsulated in the charities Sorp.

The boot on the other foot creates problems in this area. I often see charities in receipt of donations where the purpose of the funding is too narrowly restricted because a fundraiser did not ask for a contribution to overheads.

The charities Sorp is an interpretation of the Financial Reporting Standards for charities to use for their annual financial statements. These are accounting rules that aim to achieve fairness in reporting financial results and allow trustees to show their stewardship of funds entrusted to them. I'm quite happy to do it by the rules when these are good rules for accountability and the good of the sector.

Kate Sayer, partner, Sayer Vincent, London EC1

Please send letters to thirdsector@haymarket.com or Third Sector, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington TW11 9BE. Letters may be edited. 

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