Investing in charity ‘cold spots’

Investing in charity ‘cold spots’

9th September 2014

Charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in tackling poverty. Through our Alliance of grassroots charities we consistently see how the support these organisations provide is pivotal in transforming people’s lives. But for the full potential of these organisations to be unleashed, they must exist where they are most needed. In 1848 the philosopher John Stewart Mill noted:

Charity almost always does too much or too little: it lavishes its bounty in one place, and leaves people to starve in another.

More than a century and a half on, the problem remains: the most deprived areas of Britain tend to have both fewer charities and less philanthropic resource, with almost ten per cent of the population of England and Wales living in areas with less than 1.6 per cent of the total number of charities.

During our research we visited parts of the UK such as Blackpool – which has the fewest charities registered in the area per head but also has some of the most entrenched social problems in the UK.

But this uneven spread of the social sector is not inevitable. As part of our Breakthrough Britain 2015 series, the CSJ yesterday published Social Solutions, which, amongst other things, puts forward a plan to tackle the issue of charity ‘cold spots’. We recommend:

  • Mapping of the social sector to gain a better understanding about where charities are currently not reaching and to take stock of where more investment is needed.
  • Support to bring more voluntary organisations to ‘cold spots’ through community building projects and mentoring schemes.
  • Growing the role of Community Foundations through an extended and refocussed Endowment Match Challenge, targeting areas with the fewest philanthropic resources.

These recommendations are part of a raft of wider measures to unlock the potential of the social sector to tackle poverty. We also recommend greater investment in developing innovative ideas from the social sector to help them grow and be commissioned by government at a wider scale. Taking the highly successful US Social Innovation Fund, established by president Obama in 2009, as a model, we recommend the Government uses money currently locked up in dormant insurance pots to fund more investment for the sector’s best ideas.

As social problems become more acute and more difficult for governments to manage, the social sector’s role becomes ever more crucial. Our paper is a challenge to unleash the power of the sector, help it to innovate and grow its role where it is most needed.

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