Is there any hope for faith, in charity?

In Funding issues, Uncategorized on June 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Recently I have taken on a contract to raise funds for a
faith based charity who want to start up an independent school. I am well
equipped, at least on paper to do this. I am of the Jewish faith and this is a
Jewish organisation. I have also spent years in the voluntary sector
developing the business side of several organisations so that they can be
compliant with  legislation enabling them to gain
funding from both statutory and non-statutory bodies.

So far so good, and also so far so bad. Anyone who has and
contact with idealistic people religious or otherwise will know that faith
comes first. Faith in ones belief and that their goals are achievable. That their
cause is  right. That their intentions
are for the common good.

As I said some of these elements are not specific to
religious groups. But secular groups do not labour under the same exclusion
criteria that faith based organisations do, which means that they have a
discriminatory advantage over their faith based colleagues.

The exclusion criteria that I am eluding to specified by
funding bodies large and small, well known and obscure are “the promotion of

I have tried to define this terminology to myself. Jews as a
whole do not promote their religion. In fact we are very cautious when it comes to converts and to
ensure that those who wish to become Jewish are sincere we insist on a lengthy
and difficult conversion process. It is anti-promotion in that sense.

However with some funders I have approached as soon as I use
the “faith-based” I get the blanket reply, “We don’t support…etc, etc”.  Until I explain that the organisation is not
promoting anything but providing a service to people of a specific faith
community. I get varied answers.

One and the most frequent is that they would only fund a
faith organisation if it “benefits the wider community”. In short people of
other faiths or none.

By virtue of any faith wishing to set up a faith based
independent school; this by definition means “exclusion” of other faiths.
However it does not exclude the benefit of the wider community, according to
more helpful and ingenious responders if the wider community as such were
members of the same faith!! So we find that we are slipping into the world of
definitions which are loose and prone to manipulability.

Second, some helpful advisers are able to further bend the
rules or find a loop hole by adding another acceptable criterion. So if a
funder does exclude promoters of religion, but includes educational projects, I
can apply for my organisation as an educational charity.

“But its faith based!”

“Yes, but its educational”.

Great so I can apply under that basis, by underplaying the
“F” word.

A few years ago I
attended a discussion lead by a government agency official and expert on interfaith
issues who out of respect for him I will keep anonymous. Addressing his
comments to a largely secular group of professionals when “faith as social
capital” was still in vogue, the speaker departed slightly from the script when
he complained about the “religious illiteracy” of personnel in local
governmental departments which hampered co-operation and meaningful engagement
on a local level. Religious groups became a box to tick but were still
marginal. This was in 2008 when the then Labour Government articulated its
support for the “Faith Sector” acknowledging its role in alleviating stress and
poverty and maintaining social cohesion.

The current irony now is that under the present funding
regime where local government itself has been marginalised as funders of the
Third Sector, there are less controls on who should be funded. The
self-definition of Charitable Trusts who hold resources include governing
bodies which are hostile to religion. Funding for faith based charities
therefore has been disadvantaged by the smaller role being placed on the local
state and the bigger role be handed to non-elected self-governing bodies (who
are elected by members only) include “promoting of faith”
or religious activities, as an exclusion, leaving people like myself arguing
semantic loopholes.

Obviously the “Big Society” is not quite big enough when it
comes to faith and to paraphrase the speaker , leaving the religiously illiterate to define the “deserving” for funding.

For informed quantative research on the importance of the
Faith communities with specific reference to the North West of England, see the
North West Development Agency report: http://www.faithnorthwest.org.uk/faith-in-englands-north-west-publications-nwda.html.

Those of you he would like to develop your faith based
charity, or not for profit organisation could do worse by visiting the
following sites for ideas and support http://www.timetotoc.org/index.html
and http://www.faithregenuk.org/index.html.


Manchester Charities Criticise Big Lottery Grant Allocations

In Transparency on June 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Along with my normal gripe about in-built exclusion of faith based groups is another concern about lack of transparency as far as decison making is concerned when allocating funds to not for profit organisations. My experiences with the DWP Work Programme has taught me that once funds are allocated by central government to contractors  alot of power is allocated too. Large beneficiaries in the North West of England have relative discretion as to who they use as Sub-Prime contractors to deliver the services required under the Work Programme. The same concerns apply to large Foundations such as the National Lottery awarding massive amounts to one benfactor resulting in a centralisation of resources barely different from that of local government. However there is no electoral accountability. The accountabilty is tested by success or failure of the various initiatives. The following article published by the GMCVO highlights this problem.

13 June 2011 – Manchester Charities Criticise Big Lottery Grant Allocations

Two Manchester-based charities have voiced their objections to the closed funding process of the Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change programme.

Awards totalling £1.89 million were made to the Media Trust to establish a network of local community news hubs. On the programme’s launch in March, large grants were made to Your Square Mile, the Young Foundation, NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge and UnLtd without an open funding process.

Chief Officer of Voluntary Sector North West, Richard Caulfield, has called for greater transparency in the way that the Lottery awards large funding contracts, and says that the funding appears to be indicative of a trend of national organisations being contracted to deliver local objectives:

“It reinforces an issue I have about national organisations leading so much that is aimed at the local. I am stung by what I see as a centralisation agenda by a Government that preaches localism, and my prejudice is fed when I witness grant funders giving more big national contracts for local empowerment.

“Lack of openness and transparency alienates people, creates cynics, and dampens the very creativity and ingenuity programmes like People Powered Change is meant to create.”

Gary Copitch of community development organisation People’s Voice Media, also voiced concern at the lack of an open funding round and questioned how funding decisions were made:

“Is it secret meetings with the Lottery? Going to the right cocktail parties? Is this the future of the Big Society: not about what you do, but about who you know? We now seem to live in a world of deals behind closed doors where only the connected will prosper.”

Big Lottery Fund CEO, Peter Wanless, responded by saying that the programme has spent £10 million of a £400 million total portfolio on supporting infrastructure, including the Media Trust grant, which will help the scheme achieve its overall aims.

Source: Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations (GMCVO), 13/06/2011

As I have already said

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I have just stumbled accross an old article, 2007, by Nick Cater writing for the the magazine “Third Sector” on the role of an American Christian Charity in healing the fractured infrastructure of Sudan. I am unaware as yet of the outcomes of their work since 2007 but it is evidence of the role in Social Cohesion played by religious within a global context, written by a skeptic at that.