Giving White Paper: more analysis and emerging recommendations
We're now publishing a more detailed policy analysis and some recommendations around the Giving White Paper. My view is still that there is a lot of positive intent from government and many positive ideas in the White Paper. To increase rates of giving in a challenging economic environment and in an already generous country is going to be tough. The more detailed analysis is now available here.
This analysis includes a range of recommendations, listed below.
Priorities and recommendations
1. Focus and clarity, including around funding practices: government has unveiled a number of ideas, programmes and initiatives. Many are positive but there is a danger that this may be lost due to confusion. The voluntary and community sector (VCS) is also undergoing a period of considerable transition. This is disruptive which means that clarity over the timing of new funding and when funding is new or being re-announced is important.
2. Tackling barriers: acknowledging barriers to the giving of time and money is important, and now investment and attention must be paid by government working with the VCS to develop mechanisms for tackling these barriers. This should also be a role for local infrastructure – to address how participation can be widened in communities. Some of the recommendations including micro-volunteering and time banking are welcome, but they are not the full solution. People still have other priorities like caring responsibilities and full time work that even micro volunteering can not solve alone.
3. Time vs money: The giving of time and money are related, but distinct, as are the motivations for doing them. Clarity on the part of government about which type of participation it is trying to achieve and an understanding of the different barriers will be a pre-requisite to success.
4. Social Action Fund: the Fund is positive but given its remit and budget there is a danger that it could become over-stretched very quickly. Government should regularly review its budget and ensure that it has adequate resources.
5. Review and evaluate success: given the large number of initiatives, success and impact must be regularly evaluated. Government should also evaluate the success of the range of initiatives already launched. Government should retain an important role in evaluating the full range of activities in which it is involved, including community organisers.
6. Evidence: government and the VCS must invest in robust research and analysis to ensure that policy is based on evidence. This will include monitoring the impact of the various initiatives to promote giving as well as gathering evidence around the likeliness of future policies (e.g. lifetime legacies) to succeed). There are concerns around the impact of cancelling a number of important mechanisms for gathering data, including the Citizenship Survey. Whilst some new surveys are being developed, these should build on existing good work and data.
7. Impact: government accepts the importance of impact measurement as well as its challenges, for example in having enough qualified staff in the sector to carry out impact measurements. It should implement Recommendation One of NCVO’s Funding Commission and establish an Increasing Impact Fund.
8. Joined up policy making: policies around giving should be complementary with other policies pursued across government – for example in ensuring that the promotion of social investment generates new income and resource for the VCS and does not detract from giving rates.
9. Match funding: this is an important tool in building financial sustainability and is often an appropriate form of funding. However, some schemes in deprived areas and programmes seeking to promote causes that are not popular or visible may need higher levels of grant support, particularly in the early stages and funding should not therefore be overly skewed toward organisations capable of quickly securing funds to match those of government.
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James Allen, Head of Public Services and Partnerships and Head of Compact Voice blogs on public services reform and financing, challenges for the VCS and the Compact.