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As public confidence in charities knocked, why bigger isn't always better

Guest blog by Becky Rogerson - CEO, My Sisters Place

As a small local charity we watch with some trepidation as yet again our larger counterparts hit the headlines with shocking stories of misconduct and misuse of charitable funds. First the Presidents Club scandal with high earning ‘businessmen’ paying obscene amounts of money to behave badly under the pretext of raising funds for charitable causes; followed only weeks later by disclosures of sexual misconduct by Oxfam employees, misusing their position, bringing the charity into disrepute and undermining public confidence in philanthropy.

It’s not the first time big charities have been called to account, last year charity pay came under the spotlight with a review of chief executive pay uncovering some salaries in excess of £200k. With recognition that running a big charity is a huge responsibility, it’s not quite how we expect our £1 donation to be spent when we drop it into the box on the shop counter and in my world, seems out of context with the purpose and ethos of the sector.

There are over 185,000 charities in the UK, most of them are small volunteer led groups of good people doing great things in their local communities; giving their time and resources, knowledge and expertise for good of others. Let’s not lose that. The big charities clearly need to get their house in order as it puts all the good work they do at risk, and raises question marks over those of us who are getting on with our business at the bottom of the ‘giving’ ladder.

What conclusions can we draw from this? As a small charity we are under constant pressure to merge, join consortia bids for contracts, and to cover larger areas of delivery. I would argue that bigger isn’t always better; bigger services are more difficult to manage and as in the case of Oxfam, can lose sight of what’s going on in every corner. I hope the public make well informed decisions on where they put their money and don’t lose sight of the good work the charity sector delivers.

Originally featured in the Gazette in February 2018