Third Sector at Large: Movember is the month for meerkats 'n' mumbo-jumbo

Movember, the British Red Cross, the Gift Aid Forum and the Charity Commission are on our minds this week

As the month ends, the Movember fundraising drive for the Prostate Cancer Charity is on target to beat previous records: last Friday, more than £26m had been raised around the world by more than 450,000 moustache-growing "Mo Bros and Mo Sistas", as the website - which also sports some truly scary pictures - puts it.

Mike Crockart, the Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, is a participant, and he put it to the Prime Minister straight: "Given how good we look, will he consider joining us next year?" David Cameron bodyswerved that one, blowing his protection team's cover in the process by confiding that some of them are wearing 'taches. He'll never do it, will he? Our artist's impression, below, suggests that might be a wise decision on his part - think Jimmy 'Wacko' Edwards, Sir Gerald Nabarro, Lord Kitchener?

From the ridiculous to the more ridiculous, the British Red Cross has announced that the bestselling Christmas gifts in its shops are a mug, mousemat and coaster set featuring three meerkats standing on their hind legs - yes, you know the one. They've been an "instant hit" and pulled in £10,000. So what have desert rats got to do with binding wounds and sending parcels? Not a lot. Apparently it all took off with the Aleksandr Orlov insurance ad on TV and the charity is somewhat bemused by the soaraway sales.

The Gift Aid Forum report, submitted to the Treasury on 30 September, is still unpublished and its heady proposals seem unlikely to come to pass. 'Opt-out', 'accounts-based', 'composite rate plus' - all appear destined for the time capsule. Across the pond, however, the all-party Debt Reduction Task Force has recommended scrapping existing tax reliefs for donors in favour of a credit that goes direct to the charity. Sounds familiar: they plump for a 15 per cent flat rate on all donations - so 'composite rate' Gift Aid might actually see the light of day.

The linguistic contortions the sector goes through to avoid calling a spade a spade reaches new heights in the Charity Commission's latest survey of small charities. " They face challenges in relation to maintaining their income flow," it intones. And the feline quadruped adopted an ongoing sedentary body position on the low-cost floor-covering solution.

Mathew Little is away. Contact Third Sector at thirdsector@haymarket.com

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