They May Take Our Funds… Will They Ever Take Our Freedom?

Obama: emphasis on freedom.

Obama: emphasis on freedom.

Barack Obama mentioned the word “freedom” seven times in his inaugural address on Monday. That might have been expected when marking the start of his second term as President of the land of the free and the home of the brave. The final mention came in the penultimate line of his speech. He said, “let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.” Generally freedom is thought of as a good thing, and this is justified most of the time. The freedom of the press, the freedom of speech and the freedom of movement are just three examples of freedoms that we all could not do without in the modern world. Countries that restrict these freedoms to the few elite are often criticised and sanctioned by the international community. In this country we are granted the freedom to criticise the government, and we tend to use it. From Prime Minister’s Questions to the front page of The Times to Have I Got News For You, the government is berated and lampooned. But it has been questioned this week whether this right equally applies to our charities.

Is the charity sector merely an arm of the state?

Is the charity sector merely an arm of the state?

The official government line is that they “strongly support the independence of the voluntary sector and recognise that its ability to campaign freely is part of its value to society.” However, the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector along with ACEVO has accused the government of undermining the freedom of charities to criticise them. According to the Panel’s latest report, some charities that do work on behalf of the government are being “gagged”, preventing them from speaking ill of the governmnet. Even other charities who campaign for more state funding are being branded by the state as ‘fake charities’, and local authorities have been advised to stop funding them. When you consider that the government provides 38 per cent of the sector’s income, this obviously has serious effects. Charities campaign for a great number of causes. In some cases they campaign for the freedoms and equality of some groups that are unseen by the government and marginalised in society, such as minority ethnic or LGBT groups. In order that the charity sector can bring these injustices to the government’s attention, it must not be, as the report calls it, “a mere arm of the state”. The government cannot afford itself the right, when it comes to listening to charities, to only hear what it wants to hear. Just like citizens, charities must be given equal rights to express themselves.

But while charities must be independent from the state, they cannot always afford to be independent from each other. Collaborations between charities are extremely important so that funds and expertise can be shared to make overall a better product. A new report from New Philanthropy Capital and the Impetus Trust, called Collaborating for Impact, highlights the need for charities to be fully prepared when they want to collaborate. All charities involved must understand the benefits of the joint project, its financial implications, the impact it will have and, perhaps most importantly, there must be a culture of trust between the partners. With these preconditions in place, charities can enjoy success and growth by pooling their resources in these times of financial hardship.



Categories: The Third Sector


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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