Shawcross says too many charities focus on their own growth

The departing chief executive of the Charity Commission says in an opinion piece for The Daily Telegraph that it's not good enough to measure success in terms of growth

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

William Shawcross, the outgoing chair of the Charity Commission, has said that too many large charities are overly focused on their own growth and he hopes the sector will start to see a new generation of leaders.

Shawcross, whose five-year term as chair of the regulator is due to come to an end next month, says in a comment piece for The Daily Telegraph newspaper today that there are marvellous examples of charities of all sizes that achieve measurable, meaningful results.

"But I worry that too many large charities are too focused on chasing the next public service contract, or a bigger fundraising return, or a celebrity patron," he says. "Measuring their success simply in terms of growth. That is not good enough.

"Charities, small and large, should be lean and agile, focusing on the people they were set up to help," he says. "They should question their very existence as often as practicably possible."

Shawcross says the need for "effective leadership of charities – passionate and visionary – has never been more critical".

He says: "I hope we will see a new generation of leaders of the charitable sector – women and men with ideas, energy and fight, who make the world a better place. And can prove it."

The government announced on Friday that the Conservative peer Baroness Tina Stowell had been identified as its preferred candidate to take over next month from Shawcross.

In his article today, Shawcross says it would be wrong and unlawful for the commission to force ineffective charities to wind up or merge, but trustees should constantly ask difficult questions about their charities’ effectiveness and "draw brave conclusions".

He says charities should welcome the new "spirit of enquiry" brought on by the increased scrutiny of the sector in recent years.

He says the regulator is "about to start" consulting larger charities on how they might be able to make a financial contribution to the commission’s work.

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