"I love working in the charity sector. I love giving a voice to those who can’t be heard, I love giving something to those with nothing and I love making the impossible possible. Each day I go home with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Over the years I have been involved with four distinctly different charities, each providing their own unique and necessary service. Yet, despite differences they all have one thing in common – they never say no.
I started my time in the third sector as a volunteer who supported victims of crimes. The first couple of years were great – there was a lot of support from managers, victims had great resources and a strong support network. The service was exemplary. But I remember one day arriving at the centre to a very different organisation. The service was reduced, manager’s hours were cut and the support network had been eroded. I felt I was no longer supporting victims – I was merely ticking a box.
What I found incredible was not the audacity of the changes, brought about by government funding cuts and restructures, but the charity’s lack of fight. From then on it was afraid to say no at the risk of funding being taken away or a rival organisation gaining an advantage. And the real victims were our beneficiaries.
As a result of saying yes to a funder the charity’s already stretched workforce gained a huge workload. The organisation moved away from providing quality assistance to fire fighting. Before, the service would have supported the beneficiary until the problem was solved – now they give out handouts and information under the guise of self-help. The norm is now to let service users make that journey by themselves but provide an occasional prod of information and leaflets to keep them on that path. This method doesn’t work and because it is often applied in blanket fashion beneficiaries return six months, 12 months or two years down the line with no progression, no outcome and often in an even worse situation.
I had hoped that this had been a rarity – but how naive I was. Over the years I have seen this sector become nothing more than yes men (or women), too scared to say no to our funders. Charities are increasingly taking on projects that they are not best placed to deliver because of funding fears. If we were playing poker we would be showing our hand, at every hand."