The Charity Sector is in the news again, for all the wrong reasons! The headline news is Charities given ‘last chance’ on fundraising in cleaning up the sector, a committee of MPs has warned.

Read on: it tells you that this is about fundraising self-regulation following high profile cases of people’s personal data being sold on and persistent aggressive sales practice, including the alleged targeting of vulnerable individuals.

I have no problem with the naming and shaming of organisations engaging in such poor practice (statutory, private or Charity), either themselves or through outsourcing, which is as far away from charitable values as can be. In fact I have myself asked the Local Authority to consider the impact of ‘Chuggers’ operating in Scunthorpe Town Centre on how people feel about coming to the Town, as well as the very negative impact it has on our struggling local Charities, who in no way take part in such practice.

I can also be found, on some occasions, expressing my frustration to said ‘Chuggers’ on the High Street, who after all are doing what they are paid to do; however that does not lessen the impact on the rest of the Charity world!

So my plea to the public is, don’t let headlines and the poor behaviour of a relatively small number of Charities (when expressed as a percentage of the whole sector) affect the way you think about the Charity sector as a whole.

We have around 800 local* voluntary groups operating in North Lincolnshire (not all are registered Charities) and I am not aware of any using such practices to raise their funds. These organisations are doing a great job, often making the lives of very disadvantaged people at least tolerable. Most are really struggling – financially and for increased capacity to meet the unprecedented levels of needs in our communities.

These organisations are not run by highly paid CEOs, in fact most are entirely – or almost entirely – operated by volunteers. However we do have a few local service delivery organisations, which have paid staff as well as volunteers because they need staff to ensure that services are delivered reliably, and to a good quality. These paid staff will be working with volunteers who help to deliver the organisation’s activities, because they want to! Local voluntary organisations are still managed by local people, as volunteers, who care about the area and what the organisation does, keeping the organisation true to its values and focused on its beneficiaries.

VANL is one of this small number, and we represent the others. Despite the fact that we, in common with most of our local Charities and many national Charities, are really struggling to achieve enough funding to survive into the future, I think I can safely say that we have never, and will never, engage in the practices which are bringing our sector into disrepute, no matter how bad things get for the organisation. This is not to cast aspersions on national and international Charities, most of which also adhere to strong values, including within their fundraising practice.

So anyone who may doubt a Charity, please take the time to look at their financial record on the Charity Commission website (register of Charities) and perhaps read the annual report, and ask others if they know the Charity, how it operates, and what it does. You can always give us a call at VANL and we would be happy to tell people what we know, both about VANL and other charities in our area.

We need your support more than ever if we are to sustain organised voluntary action into the future, for the benefit of the people of this area and good causes nationally and internationally.

Carole Phillips, Chief Executive

* By ‘local’, I mean organisations run by and for the benefit of people living in North Lincolnshire.