Tuesday, April 2, 2013

why being a charity isn't always the best way to 'do good'

The recent news about Charity bank giving up its charitable status to better allow it to gain access to investment in pursuit of its social mission caught my interest - it challenges the accepted norm that charitable status is always the best form to adopt to gain revenues in pursuit of achieving social goals.

I’ve always cautioned start-ups with a social mission about the risks associated with charitable status: it can be limiting in allowing you the flexibility to change your focus and activities in response to changing needs (owing to the strictures of charity legislation); it enforces limits within your governance that prevent you being able to be led by beneficiaries or employees; and as to the argument that you have to be a charity to access grants - many grant making trusts and public funding programmes aren’t concerned about your having a charity number. 
Finally, some feel that being a charity is a vital part of their business model in allowing them to gain business rate relief, but I’d suggest that any business model that is dependent upon securing rate relief is perhaps far too fragile to be able to survive in an increasingly competitive environment.

So - well done to the Charity Bank for recognising that being a charity isn’t always the best way to pursue a social mission: a salutary example to the wider sector.

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