Let's build a fairer society
What should government be doing to strengthen civil society? How can they support and unlock the full potential of people, partnerships and places to build a stronger society? These are the questions that the Office for Civil Society is seeking to answer in its ‘open conversation’ launched last week.
We agree with the Minister, Tracy Crouch, that civil society is essential to improving lives and strengthening communities. But it’s hard to make a positive change in the world without having the resource to do it; whether that’s through raising or earning money to fund charitable activity, or the time and expertise to implement it. While not everything is ‘about the money’, it is true that the more resource a charity or civil society organisation has, the more it can do.
As the Minister acknowledged in her consultation launch video, the implementation of a bold and ambitious strategy for a stronger and fairer society (what it looks like) will have to be “realistic” in the context of “financial and legislative pressures”. But we know that at a time when the demand for services grows, civil society will want to meet that need. So, while there is a role for government to fund specific and targeted interventions, for example by supporting smaller charities to grow their skills and capacity, the role of government in supporting civil society should be much broader and strategic – and span policy from across the whole of Whitehall.
That’s where fundraising comes in. The amount of money that fundraisers raise across the UK is the largest source of income for the voluntary sector (a whopping £12.8 billion per year) – and it’s that money that drives impactful change. But there’s potential for so much more. We know that investment in fundraising continues to generate successful results, with over £4 raised for every £1 spent. This return on investment is even higher for smaller charities (the reason why we launched a specific programme of work to support the fundraising activities of smaller charities!) Fundraising is the key that unlocks the generosity of our country, and provides the resources that drive and deliver change. Put simply, fundraising is the most reliable and sustainable form of income for civil society.
We also know that fundraising is about much more than just the money – it brings people together to share and support a charity’s work, mission and values. Our research with YouGov showed that 63% of people who donate to charities take further positive action as a result, including using a charity service, talking to friends or family about a particular issues or giving their time as a volunteer. This results in real positive benefits for anyone who gives, and brings together actors across civil society.
Fundraising drives change across the whole of civil society. It is the bedrock upon which all other activities – whether campaigning, volunteering or service delivery – are built on. And as the Government looks at how civil society can thrive, rather than just survive, enough recognition needs to be given to the role of fundraising not just because of the money it raises, but also as a form of social good in itself.
We’ll be continuing to make that case to government on behalf of our members throughout the Civil Society Strategy Engagement Exercise, and also using it to inform our own work over the coming months (watch this space) – please do get in touch if you’d like to be involved or feed in any views.