Rob Wilson – 2016 Speech on Local Charity Day


Below is the text of the speech made by Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, in London on 14 July 2016.

Good Morning.

Thank you Pauline for your introduction.

Many thanks to The Leatherseller’s Company for hosting us. Our civil society has a long, proud history so it is fitting that today’s event is generously hosted by an organisation with a similarly rich history.

Today, as our civil society continues to evolve, we still see the same selfless generosity, warmth of spirit and sheer determination to make a difference.

The result of the EU referendum is bringing about change for our country. In light of these changes, our work with you is becoming even more imperative.

We must continue building a bigger and stronger society with compassion at its heart – small charities and community groups exemplify this spirit.

It is one of the great privileges of being the Minister for Civil Society that I see first-hand your amazing work.

A few weeks ago, I visited a small, local charity in Guildford called Halow, which supports young people with learning disabilities. I was privileged enough to meet with their beneficiaries and to see the impact that Halow has on their lives.

Following this meeting I will visit MyBnk, which empowers young people to take charge of their futures.

Yet whilst small charities make up 97% of all registered charities in the UK, all the media coverage seems to go on the big guys.

It ignores what the vast majority are doing, day in, day out, to serve their communities.

Through tough times, I’ve been impressed to see many small, local charities adapting to challenges by finding different sources of funding and banding together to reduce costs.

It is impressive to see these charities adapting whilst keeping focus on what is best for their communities.

Local Charities Day

We should shout from the rooftops about the energy, the commitment, the expertise that small and local charities bring.

And that’s why I am delighted to announce plans for a Local Charities Day – a celebration of local charities and community groups that will take place later this year.

Raising their profile to help them get the recognition they deserve.

We want to help small, local organisations become more independent, more resilient and more sustainable. That is why we are building capability, encouraging giving, supporting investment and cutting red tape.

On capability: through our Local Sustainability Fund we granted over 260 smaller organisations close to £18 million to help them secure and improve the future of their services.

The Small Charities Fundraising Training Programme has helped hundreds of small charities increase their income. A great achievement.

On giving: we have provided match funding for fundraising campaigns like Localgiving’s Grow Your Tenner because we want to get more people giving to small local charities.

The Independent Dormant Assets Commission could help government identify hundreds of millions of pounds for good causes too. This will become a big opportunity for small, local charities.

On investment: I launched our new £80 million Life Chances Fund last Monday. This fund will develop more Social Impact Bonds, helping charities and social enterprises get the finance they need to deliver payment by results contracts.

Good for charities, great for local public services.

But as small and local organisations reach out into their communities, I am only too aware that small charities have been impacted by the poor fundraising practices of some large organisations.

That is why we have supported the setup of a new Fundraising Regulator. That regulator will put the public back at the heart of fundraising.

I have been very clear that small, local charities should not be unduly burdened by any changes to fundraising regulation.

In fact, we have cut red tape for small, local charities, by raising the audit threshold from £500k to £1 million.

As you can see, small and local charities are a major focus of our work.

But I want us to do more.

To get this work right, I need to hear directly from small and local charities and all of you here.


Organisations like the Foundation for Social Improvement and the Small Charities Coalition tell us that fundraising, public services and governance are vital issues.

Let’s take the first one: fundraising.

The reason we are all here today is to discuss how to encourage more giving to small and local civil society organisations.

Take for example organisations with an income of £100,000 or less. They make up 83% of the sector in terms of the number of charities. But they account for less than 5% of the total income.

So how do we help direct resources to all the small, local groups?

It is part of my mission as Minister for Civil Society to challenge how we can do more to encourage giving and philanthropy.

A recent report by New Philanthropy Capital suggests that an additional £4 billion could be unlocked from the affluent in Britain. That is serious money.

Many on high incomes already make huge contributions to causes close to their hearts. Some of you here today are amongst them.

Yet studies show that overall those on higher salaries give less, relative to their income.

I want to know what more we can do to encourage giving by those who have more. That’s our focus for the second roundtable this afternoon.

I want these roundtables to have a real impact on our next steps, within government and across the sector.

That’s why government is committing up to £1 million over the next 2 years. £1 million to take forward ideas that develop our culture of giving.

I’ll be particularly interested in ideas that bolster the efforts of small and local groups to fundraise effectively.

So please don’t be shy in sharing your views!

We also need to raise awareness of their vital work. Too often it goes under the radar. We need to change this.

That is why I said earlier, I want to hold a celebration of local charities and community groups later this year.

And as part of that celebration, we will encourage giving to these groups.

So we will offer £250k in match funding for a fundraising campaign that does just that.

Helping them to raise vital funds for their work on the front-line. Helping them to reach new donors. And helping them get the recognition and support they deserve.

Public services

Let me now turn to the second issue: public services. We greatly value the positive impact that small, local charities can have. These organisations work hard to reach communities and those most in need. They can improve the outcomes of public services.

We want to unpick the barriers that prevent charities from playing an effective role in improving public services. That is why we are hosting a series of open policy events.


And the third issue, governance and leadership in civil society organisations: These must be of the highest quality to enable the sector as a whole to reach its full potential.

The sector itself must take the lead in this. But government recognises we have a role to play.

This is why we are developing joint proposals with our partners in the sector for stronger leadership and governance. This work will support small, local organisations in particular.

The results of all these conversations will drive what the Office for Civil Society and Innovation does to support small and local charities in the next phase of our work.

And we will share what we are going to do as a result.

Small and local charities are passionate about the people they help. They serve their communities. They are accountable to them.

I will be doing all I can to ensure these responsive, locally engaged and committed organisations get the recognition they deserve.

Thank you.