Champions Round Table
The Charity Sector
The charity sector is big business – literally.
There are 760,000 paid employees in the sector and around 160,000 charities in the UK.
Although the combined income of charities nationally is around £40 billion a year, larger than the automotive industry, nearly 90% of charities have an income below £500k per year, which is typical of the majority of Chesterfield’s charities.
There are numerous small charities based in Chesterfield, representing a wide variety of causes and providing vital services, including healthcare, transport and practical help and advice to people in need.
This month’s round table panel, organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, brought together charities in the area, discussed how charities could work with businesses to establish partnerships that would enable more people to access the vital services they provide.
The panel met at Ashgate Hospicecare, one of the larger charities in the Borough that provides care services to patients with life-limiting illnesses. The services are free of charge and the support is also extended to the patients’ families.
AB: Ashleigh Booker, Head of Content, Derbyshire Times
DF: Debby Fennell – Supporter Engagement Officer, Helen’s Trust
ZW: Zoe Woodward – Fundraising and Business Manager, Helen’s Trust
EP: Esther Preston – Director of Fundraising and Marketing, Ashgate Hospicecare
BW: Barbara Wallace – Nenna Kind Cancer Support
DW: David Wallace – Nenna Kind Cancer Support
JW: Jacqui Willis – Chief Executive, NDVA
MK: Martin Kay – Health and Wellbeing Manager, Chesterfield Borough Council
What challenges does Chesterfield’s charitable sector face?
SK: From a business perspective, we’ve certainly seen an upturn in businesses wanting to do more with corporate social responsibility, but they don’t know where to start. There’s definitely a willingness for people to do more, especially now the economy has improved. Lots of businesses are now in a very strong position from a recruitment perspective so CSR is where a lot of businesses want to be.
ZW: There is a real shift in terms of what businesses and charities want to get out of the relationship. It’s about exchanging skills as well, rather than sending people off to paint a wall. It would be good for businesses to speak to the charities about what they need. Obviously, we want money, but we want to be able to engage with the staff too.
JW: One of our main aims is to work towards link with businesses so they could potentially support us with practical skills, like web development, rather than the typical way of volunteering.
EP: People are realising that they need to actually get involved with charities. This is also positive for the businesses who are getting involved as they get to showcase the work they’re doing with the charity and they can really get their staff involved. It’s not just about what businesses can do for us though, it’s about what we can do for them.
JW: It’s about getting businesses to recognise that it’s not just helping charities out, there is value in it for them. We would love to work toward Chesterfield being known as a town where charities can all work together.
EP: We have started to work with other charities to raise money, rather than compete with them. Often the beneficiaries of your charity will be reliant on a number of other charities as well, not just yours, so it makes sense to work together,
BW: We’re a very small charity in Chesterfield, and the main problem for us is letting people know that we’re here. I’m very proud to say that we raise all our own funds. We’re a big service to cancer patients across Chesterfield, especially because we’re based in the centre of the town.
EP: I do think that it’s the smaller charities that struggle against the larger, national charities. Collaboration can make such a difference to smaller charities. Rather than every charity trying to be good at everything, they should focus on their individual strengths and specialities and work together.
MK: From a public-sector point of view, local government has faced significant reduction in budget in recent years. We recognise how important the voluntary sector is which is what Chesterfield Borough Council still provides over a quarter of a million pounds a year for voluntary organisations. We’re trying to get to a point where the voluntary sector can self-sustain.
BW: We are here for cancer patients, so, it annoys me when charities don’t want to work together and make everything better for everyone.
What is the biggest barrier to charities being able to raise money and how can it be overcome?
EP: The Data Protection Act has to be the single biggest challenge facing charities. The challenge for the third sector is discovering how to follow best practice when fundraising. Charities sending out free gifts such as bookmarks is not seen as best practice anymore.
SK: The problem with the regulations surrounding marketing is that they are very black and white, they’re either a yes or no.
MK: We get a lot of complaints about the face-to face charity collections in the area. A lot of the rules are being put in place for big events in the town. For example, we didn’t want eight or nine charity collectors at the women’s cycling tour recently.
EP: But, with all that being said, research done by the Institute of Fundraising showed that 81% of people donated after being asked to support a cause rather than from making a spontaneous decision. That’s the sad part, that charities have to go out and ask for it rather than people just making a conscious effort to donate.
JW: Locally, there could be something in place to solve that issue. For example, I’d love there to be a hub-type place for local charities to go to and show what they do and gives supporters of the charity the opportunity to see where their money is going to.
EP: Being able to come to a local charity and see the difference that the fundraising is making is great for people who want to help. That’s why local charities are trying to be more transparent. You could maybe even let people meet who they are helping, they can then see the impact of what they do.
How can charities raise awareness of the work they are doing in and around Chesterfield?
SK: From a business engagement point of view, the East Midlands Chamber publishes a monthly business magazine that goes out to about 6,000 businesses across three counties and there’s always some space in there. If you’re looking at getting engagement with businesses, then that is a potential mechanism for charities to use. People ask me how certain business have got their stories in that magazine, and I simply tell them that they’ve sent me the stories. You have to send the stories in to get them in there.
JW: It would be hugely useful to have a regular column in the Derbyshire Times for the voluntary sector where charities can share stories of what they’re doing.
ZW: It would be great to have just a page where all the charities in the local area could just share what they’re getting up to.
EP: A lot of people think that all charities are mainly funded by the NHS, but we have to stress to so many people that we are an independent charity and we get less than 30% of our charity funded by the NHS. We just need to make sure that we take advantage of any opportunity to talk about what we do as a charity. That’s how people are going to start to understand what their donations are going towards.
SK: Later this year, we’re doing a CSR conference in North Derbyshire, and we are very keen to get lots of charities involved. We did one last year which was quite successful.