All of us were saddened by the announcement last month that Children England is to close. It is always a cause of enormous regret when any longstanding charity (81 years in Children England’s case) comes to an end, particularly when it is doing such demonstrably important work.
However, it is a particularly British trait that when things go wrong, we immediately cast around for others to blame: the UN, the EU, the Bank of England, politicians, local authorities, journalists. We aren’t very good at turning our eyes inward and asking: “How could WE have avoided this?”
I have worked with many charities that have run into financial problems. All these charities were of enormous benefit to the public at large and many of them were supporting the most vulnerable in our country. But they all convinced themselves – often against the weight of prevailing evidence – that their funding streams would go on forever as long as they wrote annual thank-you letters and end-of-grant reports.
I have always advised many funding strings to the charity bow, especially – though not exclusively – where statutory funding is concerned. Kathy Evans, CEO of Children England, pointed out that the charity had received statutory funding for 72 years until 2013. In this it was fortunate – and I can understand the Trustees’ view if they assumed this would go on for another 72 years.
But there always needs to be a Plan B for when the unexpected happens; and even when all is going swimmingly, relying on one or 2 major sources of funding is not prudent in the 21st century – if indeed it ever has been.
Whilst we should mourn the loss of Children England, small charities UK-wide need to take positive steps to ensure that they do not suffer a similar fate.