Peter Lewis: The next government is a vital partner for charities

The next government is a vital partner for the charity sector. We can achieve much more working together effectively. We all know 2019 has been a challenging year on all fronts for our sector – politically and economically of course, with continued austerity and uncertainty. But also facing systemic issues such as tackling a lack of equality, diversity and inclusion or the climate emergency.

With the world around us moving so fast, who knows the state of play by the time you read this, but we know two things for sure:

1. Charities are there before, during and after any major convulsion in the world around us.
2. The government that is formed after the 2019 election will face an unprecedented set of challenges in a country more polarised than ever before.

It is therefore now up to all of us to be really clear about the contribution we as individual organisations, or groups of organisations, can make to the country. Including our expectations and desires of the new government in relation to the most pressing issues, and how we would like to engage with the government on them.

Giving to charities is one of the yardsticks used to measure our generosity as a country, and understandably a particularly important measure for us at the Institute of Fundraising. We know it is impacted by a huge range of variables, ranging from our overall economic wellbeing and stability, to the urgency and salience of issues, to the scale and quality of fundraising communications. But are there things at a systemic level that we think the government can do to help grow and support giving? The answer is yes.

Firstly, let’s break down the perceived barriers between the important work we do, and the work of the government. We are both there to serve the public benefit. A culture of partnership that focuses on respecting each other’s roles and strengths, whilst supporting each other through our weaknesses, will unlock more generosity from the British people, businesses, trusts and foundations. At the most basic level, we know that government support for our work, whether as partners or funders, is a huge behavioural nudge to encourage others to support our work.

As part of this strengthened partnership approach we are asking the government to prioritise three specific things:

• Introducing a VAT exemption on the cost of wills that include a charitable gift, so that the opportunity to leave a gift to a charity is made a part of every will-writing conversation;
• Enabling charities to benefit from higher-rate tax relief through Gift Aid, unless the individual chooses otherwise;
• Reviewing Corporate Gift Aid to see how it can work best to encourage corporate giving.

Alongside partnership with government at a national level, we are also asking each and every MP to become a fundraising champion in their constituency. MPs see every day the positive impact of the work of charities in their constituencies - services delivered, campaigns won, communities brought together, money raised - only as a result of excellent fundraising. We want every MP to be proud not just of the amazing work charities deliver in their constituencies, but also of the amazing work fundraisers do engaging people in their communities to support those vital charitable activities.

If the next government, as well as every MP, engages positively with charities of all shapes and sizes around the country, celebrates the generosity that supports them, and the fundraising that unlocks that generosity, there is no end to what we might be able to achieve together. ■

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