By Robert Surcouf
ON Sunday, I had the pleasure as a newly elected committee member to attend the Association of Jersey Charities (AJC) biennial charity awards at Government House. The awards are focused on recognising positive developments and exciting new initiatives in the vital third sector. It was an incredible afternoon listening to Carl Walker introduce the shortlisted finalists in the small, medium and large charity categories. The marquee was filled with over 200 individuals who work with numerous local charities that make such a difference to Islanders’ lives every single day.
Looking around the room it was pleasing to see a few younger faces who had actively engaged with either an existing charity or even founded a new charity to meet a previously unaddressed need. To then see their positive but humble reactions to being recognised for their achievements was very moving. It did make me think, however, as to how as a society we can better support and enhance the third sector, especially by encouraging an appreciation of the benefits of volunteering.
Programmes such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme do include as part of the achievements volunteering within the charitable sector. I am also aware that some schools do run programmes to further enhance students’ interests in the sector and hopefully this can increase. We see excellent employment and business projects run through the schools so perhaps these can be further extended to include social action projects that will allow young greater awareness of what is achieved within our community and the opportunities not only to support the third sector but also for employment.
The young tend to be very aware and supportive of fundraising initiatives, be it sponsored events, bring-and-buy sales and various other exciting and innovative ways of raising funds. The challenge is that these events are very time consuming for volunteers and therefore other fundraising methods are vital. We have seen a growth in large prize draws with material prizes so that the charity can raise increased funds. However, these do come with an element of risk to the charity and therefore tend to be only viable for the largest charities.
For many smaller charities they are more dependent on donations and smaller fundraising events and many charities benefit from the profits of the Channel Islands Lottery. In 2019, with the then level of lottery receipts having materially increased, it was proposed that the level of lottery funding for charitable causes should reduce with the balance being focused on arts, culture, heritage and sport. At this stage the then Economic Minister was proposing that a UK company would be responsible for assessing and distributing the funds. Thankfully, common sense eventually prevailed and the use of an off-island organisation to assess and distribute funds was dropped.
Ultimately it was decided to split the funds between the AJC and the then newly formed Jersey Community Foundation, who have a wider area of focus beyond the charitable sector. Both organisations work collaboratively in support of the sector and ensure that recipients document the outcomes so that funders can assess the results achieved and better understand the benefits. The advantage of encouraging outcome-based accountability is that it provides the charities with better visibility on what can be achieved and helps encourage further donors and funding.
However, times change and at present the expected level of lottery receipts are nearly half of what they were, and this is likely to impact all the sectors that have benefitted from this source of funding. We have seen recent publicity encouraging legacy giving and hopefully we will see greater focus on regular giving options to support various causes and will help support the sector.
While fundraising is always a major challenge it is not the only one that charities currently face. For smaller charities raising awareness of their services to those most in need of them can be disproportionally expensive and it is here that volunteers with skills in marketing and publicity are highly valued. The time and skills volunteers provide to the charity are invaluable and schemes within the workplace that encourage and support individuals in volunteering are to be praised.
Charities themselves do have to continue to develop and evolve. There is a need to understand how better to engage with our entire community. Social media has provided a cost-effective communication tool, but it has its limitations, especially where the work undertaken by the charity is of a sensitive nature and cannot be easily publicised. Charities have to recognise that the young are often very focused on specific causes and they will need to communicate with the young community the causes that they are currently supporting as name recognition alone and past good deeds will not be enough. These young people often will not have funds readily available to donate but many have time, ideas and enthusiasm that should be highly valued. If properly engaged now then in the future they can become those much-needed fundraisers, trustees and employees of the future.
As parents and grandparents, we need to speak to our youngsters not only by referencing the obvious good works but also identifying career opportunities in the sector and remind that many charities have been founded by young people keen to support a good cause and make a difference. It is often said that charity begins at home. I think it is as important that we teach the young at home about supporting charity.
Robert Surcouf comes from a Jersey farming family, though his mother was Spanish and moved to Jersey in the 1960s. He became an accountant and now specialises in risk and enterprise management. A father of two school-age children, he still helps organise and participates in local motorsport events and was one of the founding members of Better Way 2022 before the last election. The views expressed are his own.