The promotion of volunteering and innovation in giving and more support for new forms of giving were the keynotes of the UK government’s White Paper on Giving published on Monday.
Among the highlights are a £10 million Social Action Fund and a £30 million voluntary infrastructure fund. The Social Action Fund will ‘support new models that incentivize people to give, such as “complementary currencies” that offer people credit for volunteering,’ says the paper. The government will invest £700,000 through the Social Action Fund in Philanthropy UK, which offers advice on effective giving to aspiring philanthropists. A further £1 million will be given to the youth charity YouthNet to support its Do it website, which links people to volunteering opportunities. The £30 million local infrastructure fund, which will be delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, will support the development of ‘more efficient local hubs to offer better-integrated support services for front-line civil society organizations’, offering activities such as ‘developing new services and redesigning existing ones; establishing new partnerships, alliances, mergers and/or shared back-office provision; staff training for new roles; and purchasing expert advice and support.’ Other measures include a year-long campaign to promote payroll giving, and ‘challenge prizes’, which will reward schemes that encourage volunteering using mobile phones. The paper also says that banks and cashpoint providers have unanimously agreed to work together to enable donations to be made at ATMs by 2012.
Reaction from the sector has been predictably mixed. Cathy Pharoah, director of the Centre for Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP), calls it ‘a great paper that is full of ideas and examples on giving at all levels’. Similarly positive is John Low of Charities Aid Foundation (CAF): ‘The government,’ he says, ‘has made tangible progress towards creating a coherent plan to encourage charitable giving in the UK.’
However, some reservations were to be heard among the sector’s raised voices. The Directory of Social Change (DSC) bemoans in a press release: ‘The lack of clear and rigorous commitments around improving company giving is a glaring omission, which the Government needs to address.’ The DSC argues that company giving is the area of greatest potential expansion, with companies providing ‘only … around 5 per cent of total income for charities and voluntary organizations – far less than the general public or government agencies’. Clive Cutbill of law firm Withers is disappointed that the government has ‘not heeded the sector’s call to consult on lifetime legacies,’ and Plum Lomax of New Philanthropy Capital feels that not enough was done to encourage giving by the wealthy and, in particular, that there was ‘not enough’ about encouraging wealth advisers to offer philanthropy advice to their clients.
Towards the less institutional end of the voluntary sector spectrum (or those whose heads stick out above the parapet a little less), commentators to the news story on Third Sector’s website were more forthright: ‘Children and animal charities will do well enough,’ declared one. ‘The rest won’t. This is about shifting responsibility for the most vulnerable in society from the government in the roll back of the welfare state.’
Third Sector Online, 23 May 2011
Directory of Social Change press release, 24 May 2011
Philanthropy UK News, 25 May 2011