I strongly support the role of the Charity Commission and much of what it is doing. But William Shawcross’s Saturday interview in The Times suggests some odd lessons, as follows.
- If you want to increase public trust and confidence in the charity sector, accentuate the negative. Recycled hostile media stories are very useful.
- If you wag the warning finger at the sector in time with right-leaning politicians and media, there is no need for a distinctive Charity Commission voice.
- The views of “the public” are all important. As Steve Bubb has noted in another context, beneficiaries don’t get much of a look-in.
- You can be “sure” charitable money has been diverted to terrorist related activities in Syria, even though there is no current investigation and no evidence offered.
- If like the RSPCA you engage seriously with Commission staff to satisfy any outstanding questions and concerns, your reward is a public kicking from the Chairman later.
- If like OXFAM you reach a carefully negotiated understanding and public statement about an issue being investigated by the Commission you may expect the Chairman to announce his own derogatory version later.
- The finger-wagging stops at the mention of public schools. All is hunky-dory in that area, no need to worry.
Shawcross likes to refer to the Commission as the sector’s policeman (a flawed, over-simplified analogy in my view). But good policing relies partly on the trust and respect of those being policed. It is not clear that these seven lessons are the right way of winning it.