Money, money, money…


It makes the world go round.

Or, at the very least, keeps your charity going a little longer.

So that’s why I’m excited to be going to the Institute of Fundraising’s Introductory Certificate in Fundraising in London on 28 March 2014.

If you hadn’t heard of this already, the IoF runs this course for “those fairly new to fundraising and who need to improve their current understanding; those not yet working in the sector and volunteers and trustees who wish to extend their knowledge of fundraising.”

Which is most of us working in small charities.

But even better, there’s a help on offer for small charities which means that it could cost you as little as £20.

So, what are you waiting for?

This is as close to a free lunch as you’re going to get…

For more details, visit the IoF website.


OSCR’s gone Wilde! Interesting developments with the Scottish Charity Regulator

I’ve always been a fan of Oscar Wilde, the enigmatic poet, playwright, polemic and prisoner.  How can you not love his caustic wit and winsome charm:

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it…

But my favourite Victorian writer is not the only Oscar causing a stir from time to time: OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, is finally considering publishing some charity accounts on its online Register of Charities.

Interestingly, there are some key differences between the English/Welsh and Scottish charity regulators.

In England and Wales, the Charity Commission only registers charities when they have a regular annual income of more than £5,000, before which they are unregistered charities, but charities nevertheless; whereas in Scotland, if you aren’t registered with OSCR you ain’t a charity full stop.

In England and Wales, the definition of a charity is contained in the Charities Act 2006; whereas in Scotland, the definition  of a charity is contained in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005; both quite riveting reads.

But a much more practical difference is that the Charity Commission does include a charity’s accounts on their site, while OSCR provides much less financial information on its register.

However, OSCR is now considering a consultation with the sector about publishing some charity accounts on its website. The reason given is the improving quality of Scottish charities’ accounts since 2006.

This is surely a good thing.

It is vital for the public trust in the third sector for charities to be as transparent, open and honest as possible, and to be seen as fully accountable for the sums they have received.

Checking how a charity has spent its money is a key part of this process.

And this is even more critical in light of the recent media furores about the extent of charity overheads, the level of charity’s chief executive pay and remuneration, and the salary paid to William Shawcross, the Charity Commission Chair.

So I would generally welcome this development.

The publication of charity accounts on OSCR’s website is needed. In an era of increasingly savvy donors, interested trusts and foundations, and attentive media, it is time for Scotland to follow best practice from England and Wales.

And as the great man so helpfully put it:

We are all in the gutter, but only some of us are looking up at the accounts…

To read more visit the OSCR website, or view a helpful Civil Society article.

When is a volunteer not a volunteer?

(Legal bit: the following is not formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such.  Legal bit over.]

Riddle me this: when is a volunteer not a volunteer?

The answer is of course simple. When they’re not volunteering.

But of course, life is never quite that simple.

So brace yourself, here’s some law to chew over…

Volunteer or Worker

There is no standard legal definition of volunteer, but the Criminal Records Bureaux defined a volunteer as “a person engaged in an activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other out of pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party other than or in addition to a close relative.”

An employee is defined as “an individual who has entered into or works under… a contract of employment”, where a contract of employment means “a contract of service… express or implied… oral or in writing.” (section 230(1) and (2), Employment Rights Act 1996).

A worker is defined more widely, as an individual who works under either a contract of employment (as above) or any other contract, express or implied, oral or in writing, where the individual performs personally any work or services for another party but is not a client or customer.

There are a number of important factors that need to be present for an individual to be a worker, being that there is personal service; that the “employer” is not a customer; and that there is a mutuality of obligations.

Volunteer Legal Status Ambiguous

BWB Solicitors, leading charity advisors has published guidance about this.

They note that “the legal status of volunteers and interns is not clear cut, as there is a vast range of different types of relationships, from the purely voluntary to those that are clearly contractual and those in between, which are difficult to define. This ambiguity makes it difficult for organisations taking on volunteers and interns to appreciate any legal obligations that they may owe to them.”

 The Practical Law Company have also provided style volunteer agreements, noting that “where the volunteer is not otherwise entitled to the national minimum wage, organisations should limit payment to volunteers to out-of-pocket expenses only, incurred as part of the volunteer role and evidenced by receipts.”

 The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (“NCVO”) also states in its guidance to charities that “paying ‘expenses’ automatically, without justification, can be seen in tribunals as the equivalent of paying a salary. The safest course is to reimburse only actual expenses, preferably against receipts.

A example from a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case might also help.  Mrs Chaudri did administrative work with the Migrant Advisory Service for two years and claimed unfair dismissal and sex discrimination when her role was terminated.

She worked four mornings a week and was paid volunteer’s “expenses” of £25 (increased to £40) a week, even though she incurred no expenses. She was also paid when on holiday or sick. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the payment was clearly for work and not reimbursement.

National Minimum Wage

Employees and workers are entitled to a number of rights which volunteers are not, including the national minimum wage (“NMW”)and annual leave.  Specifically, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 requires employers to pay the NMW to all ‘workers’.

Volunteers will only be entitled to be paid the NMW if they are workers. Volunteers will not fall within the definition of ‘worker’ only where they have no form of contract of employment or contract to perform work and provide services and where they receive no financial remuneration or benefits in kind for providing their services.

Volunteer workers are a category of worker who work for charities, voluntary organisations, associated fund-raising bodies and statutory bodies. Voluntary workers (as opposed to volunteers) are not entitled to the NMW only if the following conditions are met (S.44(1)(a)&(b) of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998):

  1. They receive no monetary payment other than reimbursement of expenses actually incurred or reasonably estimated as likely to have been incurred in the performance of their duties; and
  2. They receive no benefit in kind other than reasonable subsistence or accommodation.

The consequences for an organisation of failing to pay the NMW to volunteers or interns who are in fact workers and therefore entitled to the NMW are potentially serious. Not only could the organisation be required to pay up to six years of backdated NMW to the workers, but it may be liable for a criminal penalty if it has wilfully neglected to pay the NMW.

Implications for Charities

A volunteer can be seen as a ‘worker’ only where there are a number of factors present, being: personal service, that the “employer” is not a customer, and that there is a mutuality of obligation.

There are a number of practical suggestions given by BWB Solicitors to reduce the risk of volunteers being a classified as ‘workers’.

Firstly, get a volunteer agreement in place confirming that the relationship is based on mutual understanding and is not a contract of services or employment.

Secondly, avoid making payments to volunteers that could be construed as wages, with payments to cover actual expenses being clearly identified as such and ideally reimbursed against receipts.


If you have any questions let me know: bettercharityblog[at] or @BetterCharity.

And if you got this far without falling asleep, well done!..


Charity Fat Cats, and the Disappearing Cream…

Life in the third sector is tough.

Here I sit, a charity employee, relaxing in my large leather armchair, in my corner office, worrying about my company limo no longer being this year’s model, finding out that the UK is becoming less generous.

A report out today from the Charities Aid Foundation has confirmed that the UK has dropped from the 5th to the 8th most generous nation in the world. In 2011, 72% of us gave money to charity, down from 79% in 2010.

One of the more worrying criticism raised recently has been whether giving to charity is value for money.

A growing criticism of charities in these straightened times is the complaint that charities inefficient, self-interested and wasteful of donations.

Is that fair?

Well, there was some interesting research conducted in April 2010 by the Small Charity Directory on the percentage of donations that directly to charitable causes?  There were some encouraging answers.

Oxfam stated that for every £1 given, 80p is spent on emergency, development and campaigning work; 11p on support and governance; and 9p invested to generate future income.

The British Heart Foundation stated that for every £1: given, 56p is spent on medical research, 27p on prevention and patient care, 16p on income generation, and 1p on governance and office running costs.

The Red Cross stated that for every £1 given, between 85p and 90p is spent on direct charitable work, with the remaining 10p spent on governance, management and central support costs.

So the problem is perhaps one of perception rather that reality.

However, it is important that you charity can demonstrate value for money, as a recent Guardian article argued. So what should your charity do?

  1. Review your management accounts, and check that there are no inefficiencies in your operations.  Look for areas where you are being potentially wasteful, and try to cut down as much as possible.
  2. Consider other solutions to reduce waste.  Could you collaborate with other similar charities?  Could you share office costs or admin services? Would a merger help further your mission?
  3. Explain to your donors and supporters how you are spending their money.  Transparency and trust are so important in the third sector, and once trust is lost, its hard to regain.  Proactively show the public how you are spending their money, and what has been achieved.

Now, I wonder how much my Christmas bonus will be this year?…

Decline in Christmas Giving? Bah Humbug!


Jesus in a manger.  Peace on earth.  Good will to all men?

One of the traditional messages of Christmas has been giving to the poor,  one memorably captured in the Dickens Classic, A Christmas Carol.  The main character, after being visited by three spirits, was shown the error of his miserly ways and ended the tale by bringing a generous Christmas dinner to a poor family in need.

But it seems from a recent US survey that this festive season may be less Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, one and all“, and more Scrooge’s “Bah Humbug“.

Americans plan to spend more this Christmas on consumer goods than last year, but they also plan to give less to charity. Less than half will give any charitable gift – a drop from 51 percent to 45 percent.

But it’s not all discouraging.

A recent UK survey by the Give More campaign confirmed that support for charity is still on the agenda this Christmas. For example

  • 43% of 18 to 24-year-olds were willing to buy presents from websites that give to charity;
  • 36% of women said they would buy gifts from charity shops; and
  • 64% of the over-65s said they would donate spare change.

So what ways can you benefit from such charitable intentions?

It may be too late this year, but why not plan ahead for next year.

1.7bn Christmas cards weresent in Britain last year, with around 25% of those beingcharity cards, with proceeds going to good causes.

You could consider selling cards produced by beneficiaries online or at events in the run up to Christmas. You might also like to explore sites like Charity Christmas Cards, Card Aid or Cards for Charity.

Christmas Carolling is a tradition with a long history, dating back to 4th century Rome.  You might encourage supporters to arrange event Christmas carol services of events for friends, family, neighbours or colleagues, to raise money for your charity.

If you are collecting money on the street, read my quick guide first.

Mulled Wine also has a long tradition, being known in medieval times for its health benefits, and called Ypocras or Hipocris after the physician Hippocrates.

You might like to encourage your supporters to organise a mulled wine and mince-pie parties, and take a collection during the event.

Alms for the Poor has been long associated with Christmas, with some traditions placing an ‘alms box’ in church on Christmas Day, into which worshippers placed a gift for the poor of the parish.

Why not consider a Christmas appeal, asking your supporters to give especially at Christmas to support a particular project or need.  remember to make your approach engaging, specific and sensitive, and be aware of your different audiences.

Consider how to reach donors both by post and online, and make sure that your Christmas ask fits with your broader fundraising strategy.

Remember, with some simple planning, your charity can benefit from the increased feelings of goodwill to all men.

A Decline in Christmas Giving?

Bah Humbug to that.

If you’d like more info or have any questions, do get in touch on bettercharityblog[at] or on Twitter @BetterChairty.

GAAR! Anti tax-avoidance rules almost here…


No, not the sound of tax lawyers dropping textbooks on their toes.

Rather, it is the new General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR).

The Government has now published a draft Finance Bill 2013 for consultation. The Bill will include a general measure to counteract abusive tax avoidance arrangements.

The GAAR will apply to income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, petroleum revenue tax, stamp duty land tax and annual residential property tax with effect from 1 April 2013.

These schemes have been suggested for a while.

The problem is that accountants and tax lawyers spend their professional lives picking out the loop holes for their wealthy clients to take advantage off. Currently this ‘tax avoidance’ is legal and above-board

However, if the avoidance is taken too far, using artificial and abusive tax avoidance schemes, it can tip into ‘tax evasion’ which is a criminal offence.

The Government announced in its Budget 2012 that it had accepted the recommendation of the independent study by Graham Aaronson QC which had suggested the introduction of the GAAR.

So perhaps it will also be the sound tax avoiders make when caught.

On reflection, that’s not such a bad sound after all.


Happy New Year? The 2013 charity hangover…

hangoverWe getting closer to that most fabled of Scottish festivals, Hogmanay.

New Year’s Eve.

A night of celebration, reflection, and anticipation.

But this New Year might not be quite as happy for charities as we would like.  A recent survey for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), out this week, discovered some difficult truths as 2013 approaches.  Among the findings:

  • one in six charities fear closure in the 2013;
  • nearly half of charities may need to dip into reserves;
  • one in three fear being forced to cut services or jobs;
  • nine out of 10 believe raising funding will be the greatest challenge;
  • nearly half believe their charity may have to scale back its work.

Sobering reading.

But what can your charity do to prepare for another challenging year?

Firstly, make sure that you know your financial position clearly.

Review your management accounts, and check whether there are any downward trends in individual giving, any trust funding that might not be renewed, any major donor relationships that may be cooling.

Consider what are the main risks for the year ahead and think about what you can do to counteract them. Have a look at my recent article on Banking Help for Charities as a useful starting point.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the cliché goes.

Secondly, make sure that you have fundraising calendar in place for 2013. Think about how to get the balance between maximizing the opportunities to fundraise without risking donor fatigue.

Consider whether your fundraising activities are as varied as they could be.  Visit the Institute of Fundraising for some ideas and guidance, or think about ways to engage your online donors.

Thirdly, hope for the best but plan for the worst. Make sure you have a positive, stretching budget to help deal with any successful fundraising, but don’t forget to also have austerity options.  How would your charity cope with a 20% fall in income?  Or 30%?

The more you plan at this stage, the better you will be prepared to deal with the coming year, whatever it brings.

So remember to enjoy your Hogmanay, but watch out for the nasty 2013 hangover round the corner.

A little planning can save a lot of grief…