Rob Wilson's speech at the Annual Charity Conference

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson's speech to the Annual Charity Conference, Paris Smith.

Rob Wilson

Thank you Nick for your introduction and thanks to Paris Smith for inviting me.

It’s always a pleasure to come to Southampton. It is particularly good to see that there are also so many of you here from arts, sports and heritage groups from the City and further afield.

As Minister for Civil Society I see significant positives in our move to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It means we have the opportunity to expand our horizons and look at opportunities to increase our impact on the ground.

In the Office for Civil Society we believe that the country will be stronger if we as citizens have more of a role and responsibility to improve our own lives, the communities we share and the public services we use.

We know that charities and community groups are founded out of a passion and a belief in helping others and to do good. Sometimes that passion is borne out of tragedy.

I know you have heard from Sarah and James earlier this morning and about their inspiration to honour their daughter’s memory and to help others.

We want to encourage more people to get involved and work together to improve our communities whether that is giving of time or giving of money.

The opportunity to influence the world around you, to feel connected and to be able to make a contribution run through the idea of building a bigger and stronger society.

A large amount of inspiring work is already done by charities, communities and social enterprises. However levels of charitable giving and volunteering have remained only stable over the last year.

The voluntary sector must retain the trust of the public and effectively self-regulate to continue to maintain and grow levels of giving. It must be ready to reform and adapt to the changing giving environment and the expectations of donors.

As Minister for Civil Society I am eager to provide the right framework for this to happen.

The last eighteen months or so have seen some really poor fundraising practices exposed in the media, and a decline in public trust.

It is deeply unfortunate that the actions of a few large fundraising charities have tarnished a sector which generally consists of dedicated, and well-run organisations. Now is the time to put it right.

I want the sector to take collective responsibility for safeguarding your reputation and long-term sustainability.

That includes support for the new Fundraising Regulator. I know you have had the opportunity to hear from Stephen Dunmore earlier this morning.

The Fundraising Regulator now has responsibility for investigating and adjudicating complaints as well as maintaining and updating the Fundraising Code of Practice.

The Regulator will be the complaints body that the public can turn to. It won’t be alone though, everyone will be working together. The Charity Commission, Information Commissioner and the sector itself will be getting behind the regulator and supporting it through levy and through respecting the forthcoming Fundraising Preference Service.

I am pleased to see that the Fundraising Regulator has already signed Memorandums of Understanding with its statutory partners. It has consulted the sector on the practical details of the Fundraising Preference Service.

These are important steps in upholding public trust and I look forward to reviewing progress early next year.

Last year this Conference heard from the Charity Commission Chairman, William Shawcross. The Charities Act 2016 gives the Charity Commission the powers it needs to do its job properly. This followed recommendations from the National Audit Office.

Strengthening the Commission’s ability to tackle abuse and mismanagement was supported by 83 per cent of the public and 92 per cent of charities.

The powers are necessary to deal with the tiny minority bent on abusing charity status.

But I don’t see my role as just making sure the regulatory framework is robust and fit for the sector in the 21st Century.

I also want to ensure the sustainability of the sector and to help small, local organisations that have a vital role in helping other people, to become more resilient.

Whilst small organisations make up 97 per cent of all registered charities in the UK, much media coverage seems to be about the big guys. It ignores what the vast majority are doing, day in, day out, to serve their communities.

And it ignores the energy, the commitment, and the expertise that small and local charities bring.

That’s why I want to get the message out today about our plans for a Local Charities Day on 16th of December.

This will be a real celebration of local charities and community groups. Raising their profile to help them get the recognition they deserve.

As part of plans leading up to the day we provided funding to boost Localgiving’s ‘Grow Your Tenner’ to match donations from the public. We want to encourage more giving because we want to help charities improve the lives of more people.

So we’ll be providing match funding for a bespoke fundraising campaign by Localgiving on Local Charities Day too. I’d encourage as many people as possible to get involved - donating and raising vital funds.

I have seen first hand the tenacity, inventiveness and the ability to adapt to change of civil society organisations. I also know that there is more to do to help improve skills for raising the funds they need.

So we are helping small charities to get the training they need to fundraise more effectively. Our Small Charities Fundraising Training Programme earlier this year provided more than a thousand training places.

Today I’m pleased to announce that we’re investing in a further package of fundraising training. It will provide a series of expert-led workshops across the country in the weeks running up to Local Charities Day as well as a whole range of learning sessions on Local Charities Day itself.

We hope this training will help charities to raise more funds for the vital work they do, and I encourage small, local charities and community organisations to sign up to get involved.

I have a clear goal. I want to support the important work that you do and the people you help. I want to do this by seeing a more independent, self-regulating, and sustainable charity and social enterprise sector.

A sector that can access grants, loans, philanthropy, and earned income without being entirely dependent on the state. A sector that has the public’s confidence and that knows its worth.

Thank you

Published 3 November 2016