Reading through the 12th Edition of the Small Charity Index I am struck by how loyal small charity supporters are. When it comes to volunteering we have seen consistent rises in the number of volunteers over the past three years, with a 25% increase since June 2016.
So what could we do to move our volunteers to take that extra step and get involved in the governance of our small charities?
It is clear we have had a rocky year post Kids Company, with forensic investigation into the way charities are managed. So now, more than ever before, when we are feeling the double pinch of decreased funding and increased demand for services we need to ensure that we have excellent governance delivered by skilled trustees who are confident and competent to govern.
I’m particularly interested in why, given the weight of statutory responsibilities, good people come forward to lead, especially when they have to make a significant commitment to share not only their time, but their expertise and often their networks or contacts.
Our most recent survey of Trustees found that what motivated people to become Trustees had at its heart the desire to improve the lives or communities we live in, with 61% saying “I care about the cause”. Other reasons given were, “I want to put something back into my local community” and “sharing my skills to make a difference”. Clearly for those who thought Big Society was dead, it’s alive and thriving in local communities everywhere. People want to get involved and make a difference.
So why I ask, again, are small charities finding it easier to get volunteers but harder to secure trustees?
We found that 44% of trustees surveyed felt that the Government should consider how to incentivise trusteeship, (although 56% did not). After all if you donate to a charity, the charity can reclaim Gift Aid and if you are a high rate taxpayer you can reclaim tax yourself, even companies can write off donations against Capital Gains tax. So it’s not surprising that those who thought there should be incentives pointed to tax breaks or allowances to cover expenses, as well as training and guidance, as just some of the ways we could incentivise trusteeship.
So why does government treat those who give time, differently from those who give donations? Both believe in the cause, both feel their contributions make a difference, both must be found and nurtured, both need to be recognised and both can stop, so why not treat them both the same?
The subject of securing trustees for our small charities isn’t going away anytime soon, and so the sooner we understand what is needed to encourage more people to volunteer to be trustees the better.
Over the next three months we are going to meet with focus groups around the UK to try to find out how we can encourage more transition between volunteering and trusteeship – we will get back to you when we have the answer.