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The British people’s overwhelming response to recent charity appeals has once again demonstrated the way in which the UK is held up as a nation which cares about others. But charity is not just about helping out when disaster strikes or a special event comes on the TV. Charity giving and volunteering goes on day after day across the breadth of the country. From the local people trying to raise a few pounds to restore the fabric of a building to sports clubs and visitor attractions, museums and zoos right through to those trying to raise funds for a national or international cause, the list is endless and our enthusiasm boundless.
But with so many causes vying for our attention, no matter how generous we are there will always be the need for more funds, more volunteers and more donations. Harnessing the goodwill, maximising returns and making the most of the opportunities falls to the leadership within the organisation and they don’t always have the easiest time of it. Charity may begin at home but the leaders of charitable organisations have to juggle enthusiastic founders and converts, volunteers, specialists and employees in an eclectic mix which often spans the generations. Binding this diversity of talent together is a task which calls for dedication and a leadership style which is strong on values and actively seeks to engage employees and volunteers in the aims of the organisation.
With all of these challenges around it is perhaps comforting to know that in some areas leaders are getting a little help from the government. For example a recent announcement on Community Amateur Sports Club relief (CASC) has increased the amounts which CASCs can generate from trading and from rental income without paying tax to £50,000 and £30,000 respectively. The government estimates this will reduce the taxes for some 40,000 clubs. Gift Aid too is of benefit to thousands of charities including many leisure attractions. But whilst CASC Relief is a matter for the accountants, Gift Aid is a matter for all those who help out within a charity.
Recently a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has brought Gift Aid back into the spotlight. Acknowledging that Gift Aid now accounts for some 2% of charity income, the NAO does raise some questions over whether more could be done to increase the benefit of Gift Aid still further. Even though Gift Aid now raises over £1 billion per year the NAO believes there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether the changes instituted in 2000 have directly resulted in an overall increase in charitable giving and whether the government has taken sufficient steps to promote the use of Gift Aid.
But whilst the NAO have left the government and HMRC with seven action points, that doesn’t stop charity leaders from taking action within their own organisations to promote Gift Aid donations. Experience has shown that simply by engaging employees and volunteers in the aims and values of the organisation, the Gift Aid income can increase.
Some will require coaching in overcoming objections and in visitor interaction but with engagement comes enthusiasm and this translates into animated discussion and a sharing of the great work of the charity with the visitor. Engaged employees are also far more likely to seek out opportunities to better understand their visitor/donors and to develop ways of cross-selling and of increasing overall income.
Charity may indeed begin at home but engaging hearts and minds to maximise the charitable potential begins with the leadership of every charitable organisation. With engaged employees and volunteers stepping up to embrace the values and aims of the organisation who knows what levels of Gift Aid income the next NAO report may reveal.