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Posted by Sarah Brown on 27 Aug '13

Charities at risk

The recent publicity about charity executive salaries, the high profile TV ads and the plethora of charity shops in every high street are giving a distorted view of how the majority of small and medium sized charities operate

For many people charities run second hand shops, should only have volunteers and certainly shouldn't pay high salaries and sometimes tough their lives when they get a rescue pet or a serious illness means they need support or feel they want to find a cure.

For the less well off of our society charities can represent more fundamental support - filling the gaps the state leaves, be it a food kitchen, shelter or guidance through the complex mechanisms of the beneftis system.

Many don't care that the environment for charities has radically changed, first they expanded as they got more and more state money through the 90's and early 2000's. Often this money was to provide services that the state had previously supplied and then as the recession hit and the UK competed with Eastern Europe for European funding the money dried up. Even branches of large charities like Relate have shut their doors in some places and the charities that grew from relying on volunteers are struggling to go back to that volunteer model.

Too many charities may be coming back from the summer holidays worrying about closure and the future. Some charities like a great charity we met last week in Leeds Simon on the Streets have never taken state funding so initially they felt more secure when others were facing cuts but now they realise they have even more competition for the funds that previously many didn't bother with.

For over 20 years I've been working to get charities to diversify their income so in some sense I've been justified but it doesn't please me. I can't bear the loss of life changing services often when there could be a way forward so we are teaming up with Paul Moorhead from Moorhead Savage to offer support for charities that feel under threat and need advice. You can have a questionnaire that we have developed together which will help you summarise your current situation and lists what information we would need to understand your issues and what can be done. The key is to act sooner rather than later so that a solution can be found - the UK has a charity sector to be proud of and charities are fundamental to many of the things we take for granted from the leisure activities such as bird reserves and stately homes to the rescue and support of the air ambulances or lifeboats and the carers and campaigners who fight for our rights. We all need to fight for our charities so we don't look back and say 'what happened where did they go'?