Opinion: A business leader's self-serving tosh

Nick Cater, consultant and writer, catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

So Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, thinks the best thing for charity would be to welcome company secondments and thus secure a healthy dose of world-beating British business acumen (Third Sector, 8 February).

Having seen where that thinking has led this Government - from the corporate greed of the private finance initiative to poorly run business-sponsored city academies interested only in a supine workforce - charities might be best off ignoring such advice.

You'd think that Sir Digby would have learned a little more about the real needs of charity before holding forth in the inaugural Sir Paul Getty Charity Lecture. He has plenty of people who could give him advice, given that his official biography lists his links to everyone from Scope, Unicef, Cancer Research UK and Birmingham Hospice to Sense, Mencap, the National Trust, the Royal British Legion and more.

They might have suggested a CBI-led campaign to transform the lamentable record of corporate donations to charity, a Jones-headed effort to persuade companies to introduce payroll giving or even getting business leaders to lobby Chancellor Gordon Brown for a better deal on voluntary sector VAT and to give lottery ticket tax to charity. Can't say I've noticed any of these initiatives lately.

Actually, Sir Digby used CAF's platform to offer a more insidious and damaging message, urging lower taxes, smaller state provision and an end to the nanny state "if there is to be a significant increase in charitable giving". It's unclear why removing state safety nets, cutting government spending and putting more vulnerable people at risk is an essential precursor to Sir Digby's company chums giving more.

As a counterpoint to Sir Digby's self-serving tosh, a study from social researchers Lemos & Crane made far more useful reading. Researching homelessness, the study found the highest priorities of those on the streets were not shelter or work but "social and emotional aspirations", including feeling good about themselves, having new friends, more time with their families and finding partners.

Charities might need to work harder to offer the emotional support that those in need require, but their committed and caring staff are far more likely to go that extra mile than any business executive.

So forget profits, Sir Digby. As the Beatles reminded us, "money can't buy me love".

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