Nesta launches £3.7m social impact fund for arts and culture

The Cultural Impact Development Fund will give loans of between £25,000 and £150,000

The global innovation foundation Nesta is providing funds of up to £150,000 to help arts, cultural and creative organisations achieve social impact.

The £3.7m Cultural Impact Development Fund will provide “risk-taking, ambitious organisations in the arts, cultural and creative industries” with repayable finance and support. The loans will range from £25,000 to £150,000.

The programme is managed by Nesta and funded by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, with finance being provided by its partners the Big Lottery Fundand Big Society Capital. It comes after the launch of the £7m Arts Impact Fund, which has made 22 unsecured loans of between £150,000 and £600,000 in the past three years.

Nesta has introduced the programme after it commissioned a survey of more than 1,000 arts and cultural organisations earlier this year. Its report on the survey, Repayable Finance in the Arts and Cultural Sector, said there was strong demand for repayable finance to support the sector.

The report said that organisations were set to seek an aggregated £309m over the next five years. Demand for small-scale finance was especially strong, it said, with 41 per cent of respondents indicating that they would be looking for less than £150,000.

Fran Sanderson, director of arts & culture investments and programmes at Nesta, said the fund would “address the gap in the market for smaller loans” that was evident from the Arts Impact Fund.

“We hope we’ll be able to help smaller organisations all over the country use this patient capital to drive revenue generation and compound their impact,” she said.

“We believe fervently in the power of arts, culture and creativity to engage and empower even the most marginalised in society, and the passion of organisations working in the sector to drive positive change for individuals, communities and wider society.”

The fund will have a three-year deployment period from this month, with the final loans expected to be repaid by July 2026. Organisations can find out more from the Cultural Impact Development Fund website.

Source: Third Sector

Ministers to back improved safeguarding with £2m

The DCMS says charities will also be offered free training so they have the ‘highest possible safeguarding standards’

The government has said it will spend “up to £2m” on measures to improve safeguarding among charities in England.

An announcement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport today said the funds would be used to improve incident handling and would include digital solutions to reporting incidents.

Charities will also be offered free training so they can “implement the highest possible safeguarding standards” and they will be given clear guidance on reporting and whistleblowing, the DCMS said today.

The funding is understood to be coming from existing DCMS budgets and will be used to develop projects such as finding digital ways for people to report safeguarding concerns to the correct person.

A new digital tool along these lines is expected to be trialled in early 2019.

More announcements on the precise funding amounts are expected to be made in due course, Third Sector understands.

The DCMS, which has been working with the Home Office, the Big Lottery Fundand the Charity Commission on the new measures, said the work would build on the code of ethics, which is being led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The final version of the code has not yet been published. It is expected to come out later this year after a consultation on a draft version closed last month.

The DCMS said it had appointed John Drew, former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board of England and Wales, to chair a new cross-sector Safeguarding Programme Group, which would oversee the implementation of the new measures.

The DCMS said the group would complement the programme of work for the international aid sector announced last week by Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary.

Mordaunt said the government was planning to pilot a £10m online platform to help prevent sexual predators finding work in the aid sector.

Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said today that the government wanted to instil fundamental changes to help restore the reputation of the sector

“Safeguarding is non-negotiable,” she said. “Charities are widely trusted and we need to ensure an environment exists where everyone feels safe, from service users to the employees and volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to benefit communities across the country.

“These measures will help to protect and empower people to speak up and ensure charity leaders tackle poor behaviour head on.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said: “Charities have been leading a lot of work to improve safeguarding, and I’m very pleased to have the minister’s backing. This funding will help turn plans into reality and prevent abusers using charities as cover for their crimes.

“We had positive feedback to our consultation on the charity code of ethics – a charity sector equivalent to the Nolan principles for public life – and expect to publish it later this year.

“I hope it will become an indispensable tool for charity trustees to ensure their organisations are always acting with the greatest integrity.’

Source: Third Sector

Charities should operate less like businesses, says Charity Commission chair

In a speech to launch the regulator’s new strategy, Baroness Stowell says charities should uphold their traditional values and work as the public expects them to charities should operate less like businesses and a culture change is needed in the sector to uphold its traditional values and operate in a way the public expects, according to Baroness Stowell, chair of the Charity Commission.

In a speech at the Royal Society of Arts last night to launch the regulator’s new strategy, Stowell said that charities were “at heart, about altruism and selflessness”, but some had undermined that concept in the eyes of the public, and that meant charities were no longer being given the benefit of the doubt.

“People have seen some charities displaying uncharitable behaviour – whether that be aggressive fundraising practices, exploitation of vulnerable people or single-minded pursuit of organisational growth – and they have become less inclined to trust them unquestioningly,” she said.

“They feel that the promise of charity has not always been kept.”

Stowell warned that charities “do not have a natural, eternal monopoly over the channelling of our altruistic impulses” and said that new technologies, enterprise models and social changes were providing an alternative to the traditional charitable model.

All charities and the regulator, she said, should therefore take steps to promote what is special about charities and to meet public expectations or “risk being complicit in its decline”.

Stowell said that a culture change was needed and told the story of a charity chief executive who she said did not compete to deliver contracts that were already being provided by another local charity.

“That leader understands that the charity’s purpose is to help their beneficiaries, not to grow bigger and stronger for the sake of it – or worse, at the expense of another, smaller charity,” she said.

“And because they are aware that, as a leader of a charitable organisation, they have a wider responsibility towards the flourishing of charity as a whole, so more people benefit.

“That’s charitable behaviour,” Stowell said. “That’s behaviour that separates a charity from a profit-making business – that’s the attitude, the ethos, the public expect.”

Stowell also took aim at sceptics in the charity sector who felt the public’s view of what a charity should do was too simplistic.

“I also know there are some in the sector whose response might be to pooh-pooh the idea of charitable behaviour,” she said.

“Who might reject the notion as ‘motherhood and apple pie’, as the perspective of a naive public that simply doesn’t understand how complex an operation a modern charity is, or how clever and sophisticated you need to be to run one.

“Of you I ask: if you do not buy into the basic principle that a charity should hold itself to high standards of charitable behaviour and attitudes, then why are you involved at all?”

If these charities’ operations were so complex that they was difficult to understand, she said, this was “all the more reason to reassure the public and your beneficiaries that you’re getting the basics right” to prove the charity was competent enough to deliver sensitive programmes and oversee complicated structures.

Charities should also be more vocal about their high standards and how they make a difference, as well as taking responsibility for the idea of charity and how it is viewed by the public, Stowell told the audience.

“If you are involved in a charity today, you form part of the ship that holds within it the very concept of charity,” she said.

“And if you fail the public, you’re chipping away at the hull of that ship, and you risk sinking more than just yourself and your own organisation.”

Source: Third Sector

Simon Blake: Charities can’t afford to overlook the mental health of their staff

Failing to create supportive workplaces will inevitably have a negative impact on both employees and employers.

World Mental Health Day is taking place this Wednesday, and the World Federation for Mental Health is asking everyone to think about young people’s mental health in our rapidly changing world.

Last week, I was privileged to start as chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England. Our vision is to normalise society’s attitudes to and behaviours around mental health by developing the skills we all need to look after our own and others’ wellbeing.

If your organisation is working with young people, or those who work with them, we have developed the #HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit to support World Mental Health Day. The toolkit is a free resource packed with practical tips, gifs and infographics to help people understand youth mental health, raise awareness and start conversations.

Looking wider than the youth theme of World Mental Health Day, we know that at least one in four people experience mental ill health at some point in their lives and, crucially, that too often they feel unable and fearful to talk about their mental health openly at work.

This has to change. Luckily there is now much more policy focus and public awareness about mental health than ever before. All employers, including those of us within the third sector, have to know and understand much more about mental health, and use that understanding as the basis for deliberate action to create cultures in the workplace where mental health is understood, employees are supported and managers know how to address employee mental health effectively in all that we do.

The cost of not doing so is self-evident. It is evident in the negative impact it has on individuals, office relationships, and in the economic cost through low morale, sickness and productivity. The latest research shows that mental ill health costs employers £35bn a year. More importantly, failing to create a mentally healthy and supportive workplace will inevitably affect our employees’ job satisfaction, morale, productivity, loyalty and, of course, their wellbeing.

Luckily, a lot of resources are available to help us.

For employers, MHFA England has produced a Workplace Wellbeing toolkit. This includes a “making the business case” presentation, which is a great way to start conversations about the importance of investing in mental health support in your workplace.

The recently launched Mental Health at Work Gateway is a new platform curated by Mind as part of the Heads Together initiative supported by the Royal Foundation. It pulls together resources from a range of different organisations to help employers across sectors, including the third sector, develop their own wellbeing strategies.

Building a culture that supports your employees’ mental health cannot and must not be left to chance, or fall down the priority list because we are a sector that cares. It requires deliberative action to build culture, awareness, understanding and skills, supported by policies and interventions that ensure employees can thrive and make the biggest difference for those we work with.

Simon Blake is the chief executive of MHFA England

Big Lottery Fund to open new £15m digital fund

The scheme will help voluntary sector organisations use digital tools and approaches to support local people.

The Big Lottery Fund is to launch a new £15m fund designed to help charities make the most of digital opportunities.

The Digital Fund, which will open for applications on 22 October, will award grants of up to £500,000 to help voluntary sector organisations use digital tools and approaches to support local communities.

The programme has two funding strands. The first will focus on what the BLF calls “digital pioneers”, which are established charities with annual incomes of more than £500,000 that want to use digital technology to make significant progress.

The second funding strand will focus on “digital natives”, or more recently established charities that are already successfully using digital but need help expanding.

Grants awarded by the BLF in the programme will last between one and four years, the organisation said.

Applications for the first funding phase will be able to be made until 3 December, the BLF said. 

Initial funding decisions will be made in January and March 2019, the BLF said, and there will be further opportunities to apply in 2019.

Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the BLF, said: “It will help both digital natives and digital pioneers maximise their impact, by putting people at the heart of their digital services.

“This is an exciting stage in our own journey to be an effective digital funder.”

The BLF will rebrand next year as the National Lottery Community Fund, which it said will help make its purpose clearer to the public and support the long-term health of the National Lottery.

Speak to government in a single voice, former minister tells charities

Speaking at a Conservative Party conference fringe event, Philip Dunne, the MP for Ludlow, praises the British Lung Foundation for linking with about 30 other charities to push respiratory health up the agenda

Charities should speak to government in a single voice to have the most impact, a former health minister has told the Conservative Party conference.

Philip Dunne, the MP for Ludlow, was speaking at a fringe round-table event in Birmingham yesterday on the role of charities in tackling health and care challenges.

He praised the work of the British Lung Foundation, which had joined with about 30 other charities to ensure respiratory health issues were pushed further up the agenda.

He said it was an “extremely appropriate development that the NHS and government are able to talk to interested charities as a block rather than individually”.

He said charities and sector bodies needed to “work together on certain issues as a body because you carry so much more weight when you do”.

Much of the session focused on how charities could alleviate demand for public services, either by providing certain services themselves or by providing care and activities that prevented people needing more drastic medical intervention further down the line.

But Andrew Selous, the MP for South West Bedfordshire and member of the Health and Social Care Committee, said many public services were cautious about referring members of the public to charitable organisations, fearing they would get the blame if provision turned out to be inadequate or unsafe.

He said that statutory bodies might be more comfortable signposting service users to the voluntary sector if organisations providing such services were given quality kitemarks.

“What I think we need is a basic health check on an organisation that it’s got a good equalities policy and DBS checks,” Selous said. “A couple of basic things so services such as GPs can refer with confidence”.

He said statutory services would still be accountable to the people they referred, but it would allow them to have more confidence in the service they were referring people to.

“We’ve really got to be able to crack that to get this link between the voluntary and community sector, civil society and the guys at the coalface of public services.”

Sagar Sharma, director of policy and communication at Barnardo’s, warned that charities needed to be careful about how much statutory and contract work they took on, because they risked being seen as “not really a charity” and losing public trust.

Source: Third Sector

Majority of charities have seen databases shrink after GDPR implementation

A survey by nfpSynergy in conjunction with Third Sector finds that complying with the new data protection rules has had mixed effects for the charity sector.

More than half of charities have seen the number of supporters they can contact by email fall as a result of the General Data Protection Regulation, a survey has revealed.

The survey of 176 charity workers by the research consultancy nfpSynergy, in conjunction with Third Sector, found that 53 per cent had seen their email database shrink to some extent as a result of complying with the GDPR, stringent data protection rules that came into force in May.

The number of people who were contactable by email more than halved for 18 per cent of respondents, although 31 per cent said their email database had stayed the same size.

Postal databases have also been affected, with 37 per cent of respondents saying theirs had shrunk to some extent, and 38 per cent saying it had remained the same.

Meanwhile, 20 per cent of respondents said their phone database had shrunk and 21 per cent said it had stayed the same. Most people (59 per cent) said they did not know or the question did not apply to them.

Joe Saxton, the founder of nfpSynergy, said: “Given that people might have spent years building up these databases of supporters, this could mean a large set of income-generating and relationship-building opportunities that are no longer possible.

“Some organisations will have seen their opportunities to raise money severely diminished.”

He said that some organisations might have believed that they needed to rely on opt-in consent to contact supporters and were unaware that they could use the concept of legitimate interest, which becomes invalid once someone has been asked for consent.

“They might have a whole chunk of supporters who are still interested in them but they do not have the mechanisms to talk to them,” Saxton said. “And of course if they’re very small organisations that’s a serious long-term financial implication.”

Half of respondents said they were using legitimate interest to contact donors, and 62 per cent said they were using consent, the survey found.

When asked about the challenges they had found in preparing for the GDPR, many pointed to the time and effort it had required, one saying it had been “enormous”, another saying it had “seriously limited” the charity’s ability to carry out its mission and another describing it as “a total and utter waste of time and money” that would horrify donors.

Almost nine out of ten respondents (89 per cent) agreed that preparing for and implementing processes to comply with the legislation took up a lot of staff time, and almost three-quarters (74 per cent) said it had taken a lot of money or resources.

Saxton said he thought it was likely that small charities would have found becoming compliant especially difficult.

One respondent said worrying about the GDPR had “hamstrung” the organisation and it had been given “often vague and contradictory” advice.

“Small charities are really suffering in the wake of the introduction of GDPR,” the respondent said.

The majority of respondents (70 per cent) agreed it had really helped their organisation get its data protection processes in order, and 53 per cent said it would help to improve trust in the charity sector.

But less than half (49 per cent) felt the GDPR had been beneficial overall and only 15 per cent agreed that it had improved their relationship with their supporters – 28 per cent disagreed.

Saxton said: “There are some very frustrated people over GDPR and a huge amount of time and energy has been spent on becoming compliant.”

He acknowledged that there was no difference in the law for charities and other organisations, but said charities had been particularly affected because they were less likely to be able to rely on having a contract or a legal obligation to contact people than businesses.

Despite the money and time put into preparing for the implementation of the legislation, only 61 per cent of respondents felt that staff at their organisation had a good understanding of the GDPR and 17 per cent strongly disagreed with the idea that their colleagues had a good grasp of it, the survey found.

When asked to rate their organisation’s GDPR compliance out of 10, the average rating was 7.5, which Saxton said was “moderately encouraging”.

But he added: “I worry about where we’ll be a year from now. I think quite a lot of organisations won’t be compliant or will get shoddy if they think they can stop worrying.”

Source: Third Sector

Charities that don’t file serious incident reports ‘more risky than those that do’

Michelle Russell, director of investigations at the Charity Commission, tells meeting that she would welcome the responsibility to file such reports being put on a statutory footing

Charities that do not file serious incident reports to the Charity Commission could be deemed more risky than those that do, according to the regulator’s director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement

Speaking in a debate on serious incident reporting at the law firm BWB’s annual charity tea party yesterday, Michelle Russell said the commission wanted charities to treat serious incident reporting as a responsible way of managing risk, rather than an indication of wrongdoing.

“We are actually more worried about your peers that are not reporting than the ones that are,” Russell said. “If you are operating in the same area, you can’t not be exposed to the same risks.

“So we want to change the message to ‘if you do report, you are acting responsibly and we think you’re managing your risk’.”

The Charity Commission has previously called for more serious incidents to be reported to it, and suggested in its evidence to the International Development Select Committee’s inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector that serious incident reporting should be placed on a statutory footing.

Russell said she wanted to provide more guidance on the information charities should submit in serious incident reports, and added that the regulator was considering a digital system to guide charities on this subject.

She said that putting the system on a statutory footing would increase the amount of information the commission had about issues affecting charities and allow it to take action to protect others in the sector.

“Without having some of the bulk information in a systematic way, we can’t have a grown-up conversation with the public and the press that says ‘don’t panic, because these things will happen but the charity is on it’,” she said.

Russell added that having this information would help the regulator send out alerts about issues such as frauds targeted at charities.

Rosamund McCarthy, a partner at BWB, told delegates that serious incidents were under-reported, with 99.2 per cent of charities not having filed serious incident reports last year.

But she said putting the system on a statutory footing would risk charities reporting too many minor incidents, and there should be a government-backed, independent review of the serious incident reporting scheme.

This review would examine how the system worked, what information the commission wanted, what it needed to do with that information and the resources the regulator needed to manage that information properly.

Elizabeth Chamberlain, head of policy and public services at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said more clarity was needed for trustees on what information to provide the commission with.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around how trustees fulfil their responsibilities here,” she said.

“Putting the regime on a statutory basis has an appeal in that it would it would force the guidance to be clearer, and there is a lack of clarity at the moment.”

She said charities needed to see serious incident reporting as responsible management of a problem, rather than a sign the charity had failed.

“Serious incidents are inevitably going to happen,” Chamberlain said. “It is not a sign that the trustees have done something wrong – them reporting it is a sign that they have identified an issue and they are reporting it to the commission and dealing with it.

“I don’t think that message is getting through to trustees.”

Source: The Third Sector

Former charities minister says ‘highly confrontational’ campaigning damages sector

Rob Wilson, who lost his seat in last year’s election, tells an NCVO conference that this attitude from some charities harms their relationship with government

The “highly confrontational” attitude of some charity campaigning has damaged the sector’s relationship with government, according to Rob Wilson, the former charities minister.

Speaking at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ campaigning conference in central London this morning, Wilson warned charities that they should avoid being negative or straying into party political matters in their campaigns.

He said the sector was failing to make its voice heard at the top of government because it was too fragmented in its approach.

Wilson, who was Minister for Civil Society between 2014 and 2017 when he lost his Reading East seat in the general election, disputed the idea that government was opposed to charity campaigning, saying “nothing could be further from the truth”.

But he added: “From the government’s perspective, it dislikes confrontation, so it’s rarely a good idea to venture straight into that. It brings out a defensiveness in civil servants who don’t want their minister criticised or viewed negatively. It colours their advice, and specifically their willingness to put critics in front of their minister.

“A number of overseas aid charities have been highly confrontational at times.”

Wilson did not name any charities, but he has previously been critical of Oxfam, writing in a newspaper article in January that the charity had “disappeared up its own morally righteous posterior”.

He said today that the result of this behaviour had been “a worsening of relations with government and its backbench MPs”.

He said: “The campaigns that cause this to happen are generally the ones that venture into contested political ground, where charities are seen to align with one side or the other.”

But he added that the vast majority of charities had been careful not to do this.

For charities that did wish to engage in direct public criticism of government, he said his advice was to have strong evidence to back up a campaign, to engage in constructive conversations with government officials, to be positive from the start and to use measured and temperate language.

And Wilson added that a weak government was more likely to do deals behind the scenes to avoid public rows, but would stiffen its position if criticised in public.

He said it was “highly desirable” to have charities highlighting the unintended consequences of its policies, but the sector “has become more distant from people’s political and social concerns”.

He said: “It is a long time since civil society has had the confidence and the voice to properly and powerfully articulate itself as having, at least in part, the answer to many of society’s most pressing problems.

“The challenge for the sector is that it is fragmented, its ideas are often boiled down to the lowest common denominator and there is a degree of virtue signalling.

“The sector rarely speaks with a single voice and isn’t able to capture the public mood.

“The solution is to spend more time thinking together about what it is that will reinvent and reinvigorate thought leadership in the sector.”

Wilson rejected the idea that charities had been silenced by the lobbying act, which restricts how much charities can spend on campaigning in the run-up to an election. He said he “never saw compelling evidence that there was a closing down of charities’ ability to say what they want” as a result of the act.

But he said Lord Hodgson, who carried out a review of the act in 2016, had made some good recommendations to improve it and he hoped they would be enacted, although the government announced in September last year that it would not be taking them forward.

Wilson also announced he was part of a group working to set up a community support bank, which he said would combine banking with social purpose because 50 per cent of the bank’s profits would go to charity.

If the project successfully obtained a banking licence, he said, the group hoped to “make a very significant contribution to social and business change in this country in the future”.

Source: The Third Sector

Charities still ‘falling short on’ public benefit reporting, says regulator

A monitoring review published by the Charity Commission, based on a random sample of 106 annual reports, says 51 per cent have a clear understanding of the issue

Too many charities are still “falling short” when telling the general public about the work they do through their annual reports and accounts, according to the Charity Commission.

The commission today published three monitoring reviews of charity’s annual reports and accounts, including one about public benefit reporting in the charity sector, based on a random sample of 106 annual reports and accounts.

The reviews say that 51 per cent of charities have a clear understanding of public benefit reporting, an improvement of five percentage points on the previous year.

The commission found that the majority of accounts – 62 per cent – included public benefit statements and 71 per cent of them clearly explained who benefited from the charity’s work.

Charities have a legal obligation to follow the commission’s guidance on public benefit reporting in their annual accounts and reports.

The commission found that 74 per cent of annual reports and accounts for charities with incomes exceeding £25,000 a year were of an “acceptable quality”, but this figure fell to 64 per cent among smaller charities.

The main reason for which charities were deemed unacceptable on this issue was the failure to include either the annual report or the accounts, according to the commission – with some submitting neither.

Eighty-nine charities included in the reviews received regulatory advice from the commission, the regulator confirmed.

Nigel Davies, head of accountancy services at the Charity Commission, said: “Producing an annual report and accounts is not an administrative box-ticking exercise. It is a chance to show how your charity is making an impact and how you are delivering on your core purpose.

“Today’s results show that too many charities are still not meeting very basic standards when it comes to making key information available to the public. I am encouraged to see that an increasing number of trustees recognise the value of public benefit reporting, but there is clearly more work to be done across the sector.”

Source: The Third Sector

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