'Think beyond fundraising in recession', Government taskforce urges

Charities must work with the private sector, says Building Stronger Communities report

Charities must think beyond fundraising and seek new ways of working with the private sector during the recession, a Government-commissioned report has urged.

The report, Building Stronger Communities, is from the Building Stronger Communities Taskforce, which was set up to establish how businesses and third sector organisations can work together to help communities affected by the recession.

It says the third sector should take the lead in developing new models of "cross-sector collaboration" with the private sector.

The report recommends forming partnerships with businesses that have a track record of winning government contracts and thus develop the commercial strategies of the third sector.

A skills bank should be set up that would offer small and medium-sized voluntary organisations professional business support for free or at cost price, the report says.

Business is also urged to share best practice with the third sector on "responsible downsizing". As part of their community investment programmes, companies should "help third sector organisations that are facing significant organisational change", the report adds.

Speaking at the launch of the report this week, third sector minister Angela Smith said she was keen to take on its recommendations and would chair a round-table discussion about the report in October.

"The public mood has changed over the past year, and people have different expectations of businesses now," she said. "They want to see them engaging with local communities."

But practitioners raised concerns about the proposals. Daniel Flynn, chief executive of the North Staffordshire YMCA, said businesses were likely to pick "sexy or emotive" charities to engage with and that other charities might struggle to find support.

Paul Toyne, head of sustainability at construction firm Bovis Lend Lease, said it was difficult for businesses to assess community needs.

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