Voluntary organisations to strive for greater influence over government

Enthusiasm and talent in the voluntary sector
will make it the government’s choice of service provider in the
future, delegates at the Charities Aid Foundation annual conference
were told last week.

Stephen Bubb, leader of the Association of
Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said the wide-ranging
government review into the future of the voluntary sector, being
carried out by the performance and innovation unit, could lead to
voluntary organisations having more influence over government.

“I hope we will see that the decades of
whingeing in the voluntary sector are over, and we’re going to be
heavily involved in policy development,” he said.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion on the
future of the voluntary sector, Bubb rejected the idea that the
government would try to control voluntary organisations, but
acknowledged that it would expect “legitimate, accountable and
achievable targets”.

Treasury minister Paul Boateng assured the
conference that the government was committed to the independence of
the voluntary sector, especially in service provision.

“The great strength of the sector – and its
importance to our services – is how it creates tension with
government,” he said. “Its links to the grass roots, its
independence, its freedom to innovate and make mistakes; all these
things would be lost if the government were to impose an agenda on
the voluntary sector.”

Meanwhile, Michael Brophy used his last CAF
conference as chief executive to outline his vision for a “public
benefit sector”, which would unite public, private and voluntary
sector organisations working for the public good.

Brophy suggested the “public benefit sector”
would provide all organisations intending to benefit the public
with the opportunity to operate on a privileged basis, such as
flexible tax breaks, and would provide private companies with a
modest, but guaranteed, fixed return on their investment.

Charity fundraising managers were also
challenged to do more to exploit government tax breaks to raise
money for their organisations.

Amanda Delew, director of the government’s new
Giving Campaign, which aims to increase charitable giving by
£500m within three years, said charities risked losing donors
if they did not offer giving options such as Gift Aid, through
which charities can reclaim the tax on donations.

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