Recently big charities have been receiving a lot of criticism that they are empire builders only concerned with building themselves up. So, it is nice to see one charity refuting this criticism: the Otto Schiff Housing Association has announced that it is to close and give £35m away to other charities because it thinks they are better placed to carry out the work.
When NPC analyses charities we look at six areas of effectiveness: activities, results, leadership, people and resources, finances, and ambition. Many charities would say they are ambitious, but sometimes they mean they want to be bigger. What NPC looks for is ambition to make things better for beneficiaries. We want charities to look beyond the narrow concerns of their organisations to their wider charitable purpose. This means putting the needs of beneficiaries above the needs of the organisation. And sometimes that means taking the difficult and brave decision that the trustees of the Otto Schiff Housing Association have just made and deciding that actually the best thing is to close down.
Thinking about what your charity is best placed to do is even more important at the moment. Charities are very concerned about whether next year’s income will be less than this year’s. To try to avoid making redundancies some charities are diversifying into areas of need or work that they haven’t done before but where they are more likely to get funding. I can understand temptation to find any funding if it means that you won’t have to make people redundant. But I hope charities are asking themselves if they are simply empire building, or if they believe that beneficiaries will be best served if this work is done by them.