27th November 2014

Directory of Social Change, London

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VSSN Day Seminar, Money, money, money! Getting and spending in the voluntary sector

The day conference, chaired by Meta Zimmeck from  Practical Wisdom R2Z, took as its theme the broad and challenging topic of ‘getting and spending money in the voluntary sector’ and the range of papers reflected the multi-faceted nature of the subject.

The first presentation – by Angela Eikenberry of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Beth Breeze of the University of Kent’s Centre for Philanthropy – focused on the growing popularity of Giving circles in the UK and Ireland. Giving circles represent an emerging trend across the world in which groups of individual donors collaborate to support individuals, charitable organizations, or projects of mutual interest. Angela and Beth’s paper looked at the landscape of giving circles in the UK and Ireland and found that, while they had many features in common with their counterparts in the USA there were some significant differences. They suggested that the growth of giving circles reflected changes in philanthropy and broader economic transitions in the UK and Ireland; philanthropy had become more visible and was taking place at a time of economic downturn and rising post-materialist values

The second paper was presented by John McLoughlin (also from the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent) whose paper was entitled Unillusioned philanthropy and fundraising. He argued that philanthropy could not be seen as a reliable, predictable source of income that could solve society’s greatest challenges; fill large-scale withdrawals of state funding; or, on their own, transform society.  On the other hand the overall funding climate – in the UK, the rest of Europe and North America – meant that non-profit organisations needed to embrace fundraising as a core activity and become more skilled at attracting philanthropic support. But they also needed to be realistic, sceptical – ‘hard-headed’ and shorn of illusion – in their search for funds as well as treating donors and potential donors as partners and peers.

After lunch – and the VSSN AGM –  Andy Benson of the National Coalition for Independent Action, and Colin Rochester from Practical Wisdom R2Z spoke on The impact of Coalition policies on service-providing voluntary organisations. They drew on evidence collected by the National Coalition for Independent Action as part of its Inquiry into the Future of Voluntary Services to assess the impact of government policy on voluntary organisations that delivered services in local communities. The paper focused on the financial consequences of the changed funding environment and how they affected the organisations and the services they provided. These included the impact of the out-sourcing of public services, the implications of the procurement and commissioning practices adopted by local authorities and the difficulties of facing an increased need for services with diminishing resources. The paper concluded by looking at ways in which voluntary service-providing organisations might challenge and change the direction of travel of current trends.

Next, Professor Cathy Pharoah, Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, Cass Business School, City University, reviewed the Funds and spending of foundations and trusts – “state of the field” in the current policy and economic environment.  She explored recent evidence on finances and decision-making of grant-making foundations to assess the extent to which they had adjusted to a changed environment. How had they responded to a variety of pressures about how they should interpret their roles and make best use of their resources at a time when reductions in government has increased public and third sector expectations of their contribution?  To what extent, for example, had foundations heeded calls for them to create more impact; to innovate to effect social change; to work more strategically through social prevention; to diverting assets to social investment; to reform social markets; to focus on social justice or concentrate on so-called ‘grants-plus’? Cathy’s paper reviewed the current stat field and explored the implications for the voluntary sector.

The final presentation cane from Andy Curtis of the Institute for Volunteering Research, NCVO. His paper – Famine after the feast? Infrastructure organisations adapting to a changing funding world – drew on a three year research study conducted as part of the Big Lottery Fund funded Volunteering for Stronger Communities programme and on data from IVR’s Annual Return of Volunteer Centres to look at changes in funding for local volunteer centres and other infrastructure organisations. He found that they had suffered significant reductions in their income and many of them were reduced to ‘survival mode’.  Infrastructure bodes found it especially difficult to attract funding; many remained heavily dependent on local government despite the cuts they had suffered; they had found it very difficult to raise money by charging for services previously provided free of charge; and many of them felt torn between diversifying their activities and providing front-line services to bring in the income they needed to survive or remaining true to their core mission as intermediaries or ‘second tier’ agencies.


Bookings are closed for this event.

Papers presented at event