Community Foundation sets out NEW vision for charities
The Guernsey Community Foundation today unveils a bold six-point plan intended to transform the voluntary sector for the benefit of the Island, and invites all Islanders to take part in a debate about the role of the sector.
Writing in today’s Guernsey Press, the Foundation’s Chair, Wayne Bulpitt, says that the voluntary sector has an opportunity to reinvent itself – provided that the States, the Association of Guernsey Charities, the proposed Social Investment Commission and the Foundation itself are prepared to re-examine their roles and commit to a range of key actions.
“We are at our strongest and our most effective when we work together,” says Mr Bulpitt. “The Foundation’s vision for a rejuvenated voluntary sector – one that’s better-placed to tackle challenges around funding and governance – depends on a partnership built on mutual trust, respect, and, most importantly, a willingness to take action.”
Transforming the Voluntary Sector
Guernsey has long benefited from a vibrant and dynamic voluntary sector which has a direct and positive impact on Islanders’ lives. Whilst the sector concerns itself principally with matters relating to social welfare and healthcare, it also encompasses the arts and the environment, culture and heritage. The Island is a happier place, with a stronger sense of community, because of it.
At the heart of the voluntary sector is a network of charitable organisations which together represent and promote a hugely diverse range of interests.
Charities — or rather their governance and funding — have, for various reasons, been very much in the headlines recently. We’ve also seen a number of proposals from the States that, if adopted, will change the size and shape of the voluntary sector; the most significant of these is the “Partnership of Purpose” model unveiled by the Committee for Health and Social Care, and the new Social Investment Commission (SIC) announced in the last Budget.
Late last year, conscious that the voluntary sector was on the cusp of evolutionary change, the Guernsey Community Foundation organised a workshop at which key stakeholders and influencers within the sector—along with their counterparts in the States—discussed how the sector might (a) better meet the needs of the community and (b) assist in the delivery of a range of government strategies.
The workshop identified a desire for greater leadership within organisations, and a need for greater clarity as to the roles, both now and in future, of the Association of Guernsey Charities (AGC), the SIC, and the Foundation itself.
The Foundation has spent the last six months considering the future of the voluntary sector in light of feedback from the workshop and in response to debates, both locally and nationally, regarding the way charities are run and how they work with government. We have identified six key areas of challenge that charities, grant-givers and government need to tackle if the sector is to thrive.
Now more than ever before, those who give time and money to the voluntary sector – whether grant-giving bodies, the States or the general public – want to see how their contribution has made a difference. Charities need to be supported so they can more clearly demonstrate their impact. This should lead not only to more targeted and effective fundraising, but to improved governance and clearer strategic thinking.
Charities need to be provided with the tools and the ‘know-how’ to become more transparent and effective in terms of how they operate and how they use their funds. Regulation can have a part to play in this drive towards greater accountability; there is certainly value in exploring the role of (proportionate) legislation and the introduction of a sector-wide code of conduct.
3. Partnership working
Whilst it can be debated whether there are too many charities, there is certainly huge scope for effective collaborative working between the public, private and charitable sectors, and the community as a whole. Charities large and small need support and guidance from honest brokers to help identify and embrace these opportunities.
In order to ensure that charities maximise their reach there needs to be: a focus on leadership (both at staff/volunteer and trustee level); a greater emphasis on training, mentoring and peer support; and the creation of a charitable hub, i.e. a physical location from which multiple charities could operate. There is a need for a corporate-level volunteer matching programme
The sector is keen to play its part in the transformation of public services. The States should work with the voluntary sector to develop policies and procedures that will make the commissioning process simple, intuitive and robust.
There is a need for a clear voice to speak on behalf of charities and the voluntary sector as a whole, and for that voice to demonstrate a new clarity of purpose.
Making it happen
We believe that these actions can be most successfully implemented if the roles and responsibilities of the AGC, the Foundation and the SIC are redefined as follows bringing with it clarity of the role of government:
Social Investment Commission
The SIC will be perfectly placed to supply the voluntary sector with grants as well as loans to facilitate the delivery of improved outcomes that are consistent with States’ priorities.
For the SIC to properly fulfil this function, however, it needs to be adequately funded. We believe that all income streams relating to the local lottery and proceeds of probate should be rerouted to the SIC. In addition, funds of approximately £0.5m per annum that might otherwise have been used to increase Gift Aid could be made available from general revenue. These sources may provide as much as £2m per annum of grant funds to be used in a targeted way, with minimal impact on general revenue and a great return.
Guernsey is a long way behind other jurisdictions in terms of utilising what is estimated to be £30m to £40m in dormant, seized and escheated assets held by Her Majesty’s Receiver General. These funds should be moved to the SIC for the benefit of Islanders via the voluntary sector and much more quickly than the time being taken to do this presently.
The SIC would work with other grant-givers to ensure that grants are properly coordinated and that recipients meet an agreed standard of transparency and governance via the AGC membership.
Association of Guernsey Charities
As the Island’s only membership body for charities, the AGC is best placed to act as the voice of the sector.
To encourage improved sector governance it could make membership conditional upon charities adopting certain recommended practices. Charities might commit, for example, to publishing independently audited accounts and annual returns based on UK ‘good governance’ codes.
The new-look AGC would no longer be responsible for distributing the lottery proceeds, and instead would be more proactive in supporting member charities. It could help the voluntary sector become more effective by: developing a charitable hub; organising training; procuring HR, PR and other professional advice; and coordinating a revamped volunteer strategy.
To do this the AGC would need to be properly resourced.
Guernsey Community Foundation
The Foundation would continue to source additional funding from individuals, corporates and philanthropic bodies. It would do more to promote social enterprise, and would act as an honest broker between the voluntary, private and public sectors with the aim of facilitating partnerships, encouraging collaborative working, and helping to build capacity.
In addition to the above, the Foundation would commission and fund research to be used by the States in support of evidence-based decision making on social and community policy.
Whilst the pace of change in our Islands may be slower than many would like, we do see from all parties a genuine commitment to a future of strong partnership — and everyone in our community will benefit.
It is our hope that this call to action will prompt a wide-ranging and constructive debate about how everyone who contributes to the success of the voluntary sector and can build trust and forge a positive way forward.