OPINION: Start trimming your wish list

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster. He chaired the trustees of the national disability charity Aspire and now sits on various trustee boards

Gordon Brown may not have put it quite so bluntly, but behind the facts, figures and bravura of the Chancellor's budget speech, there was no escaping the fact that all is not well.

I was at a charity sports dinner on the eve of the budget. It's an annual event and in the past, each time it has come to the auction, the bids from the corporate tables have gone through the roof for what, in the cold light of the next day, must seem like pretty ordinary sports memorabilia.

This year, though, it all fell flat. I almost managed to get a signed Geoff Hurst 1966 England shirt at a knockdown price.

I've been told the same story by several other fundraisers in the past few weeks. There wasn't any money in the room, one event organiser remarked after a raffle for a brand new car failed to shift many tickets at £50 a go. When times are good, the fortunate few smile on us. When they are bad, they put it in their other pocket.

Most charities outside the third sector's Premier League depend heavily on what they can raise at events because they are about as likely to snap up a major corporate sponsor as Tranmere Rovers is to attract Wayne Rooney's signature. Something like three quarters of the corporate support for voluntary organisations goes to the top 30 charities. And even that source of funding will doubtless be hard hit by the tepid news on the economy.

I don't want to state the obvious, but all this means that trustees and chief executives need to make some extremely tough decisions about existing or planned projects if they are not to come a cropper in six months. Optimistic financial projections in the current climate are a fool's game. We all perennially have more that we want to do than we can, but right now those wish lists need a more vigorous pruning than ever before.

All of which, of course, brings us back to Gordon. All the Government's fine talk of working in partnership with charities on the delivery of services will come unstuck if the charities can't raise their share of the costs.

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