RNIB chief says there are too many charities; professionalism; Countryside Alliance

Readers have been discussing Lesley-Anne Alexander's statement that the regulator should make it more difficult to set up a charity, the professionalism of charity leaders and the Countryside Alliance's application for charitable status

Lesley-Anne Alexander
Lesley-Anne Alexander

RNIB: Too many charities are a 'knee-jerk reaction'

The Charity Commission should raise the barriers to entry into the sector to stop people setting up charities as a "knee-jerk reaction", according to Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of the RNIB.

Giving a lecture at London's Cass Business School about the 14 mergers the RNIB has gone through in recent years, Alexander said there were 733 charities in the UK that had blindness or sight loss in their objects, creating "unnecessary competition for fundraising and government contract work; it even provides competition for blind people".

On ThirdSector.co.uk, Andy Benson said: "When people come together for voluntary action – whether registered as a charity or not – it is because they are exercising their concern as self-determining citizens to influence and improve the world around them. The prospect of trying to shoehorn all this civic activity under the managerialist yoke of corporate chief executives provides another glimpse of the dystopian vision that many of us fear is coming to pass."

George Patrick Lyster-Todd disagreed: "Lesley-Anne's comments are most certainly not about corporate self-aggrandisement but reflect, in my opinion, a genuine revelation that, above all, we should put first those who we seek to benefit. And no one can tell me that the sight-impairment field needs 733 charities."

Are charity leaders professional enough?

More than four out of 10 business leaders have said that concerns about the professionalism of people running charities were a factor in limiting their donations, research has found.

Philanthropic Journeys, commissioned by the capacity-building charity Pilotlight and written by Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, said charities needed to address worries that people's time and money would be wasted by well-intentioned but poor-performing leaders.

Sian Balsom said: "Since joining the sector I've heard the perpetuation of the myth that we voluntary sector types are too busy hugging trees in hemp knitwear while burning joss sticks and meditating for a better world to complete our work with professional integrity. My experience of the private and voluntary sector suggests, unsurprisingly, that people are people – some good and some bad – in all walks of life, rather than professionalism being the exclusive preserve of either."

Ian Theodoreson said: "So business leaders are concerned at the lack of professionalism of charity leaders? Meanwhile politicians, the media and (reportedly) the public are concerned at the professionalisation of charity leadership. Can't win, can we?"

The Countryside Alliance asks for charitable status

The Countryside Alliance is to make an application to be registered as a charity. Members of the pro-hunting organisation voted in favour of applying for charitable status at its annual general meeting in London.

Barney White-Spunner, the organisation's executive chairman, wrote in its annual report that he believed its work was charitable. "It's becoming very clear that, although we are a membership organisation, what we do is for the benefit of the whole rural community," he wrote. "What we have done over the past 15 years is essentially charitable."

Auntiecon wrote: "The Countryside Alliance is a political lobby group with a remit to change the law to repeal the Hunting Act, so is not fit to become a charity."

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