Charities in cut-throat competition with each other

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Charities say rivalry and competition are preventing them from working together 

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3rd October 2016 by Susan Smith 4 Comments

Rivalry, cut-throat competition and funding cuts are stopping charities working together to help children and families, a new report has found.

The evaluation of a £14 million fund that has supported 118 charities has also revealed that despite government plans to invest in services that prevent problems arising, the reality is that funding focuses on crisis services.

Overall charities were very positive about the children, young people and families early intervention (CYPFEI) and adult learning and empowering communities (ALEC) fund. However, the report into its effectiveness revealed that charities are operating in a highly competitive environment, competing for clients as well as money.

They are in an absolutely cut-throat competitive environment. There are some very unpleasant dust-ups that go on between organisations

The Scottish Government report includes a range of anonymous quotes from charities that highlights the problems.

One charity said there are "enormous tensions within the sector, between organisations, because they are in an absolutely cut-throat competitive environment. There are some very unpleasant dust-ups that go on between organisations”.

Another said: “It is a sad fact that we are in competition with each other, not just for funding, but sometimes for families as well.”

Organisations have to strike a balance between sharing their work or keeping information to themselves “due to the sector becoming more competitive.”

Overall, charities interviewed by researchers are pessimistic about their overall financial sustainability, rating it less than five out of 10.

“While we have the skills and knowledge, capacity has been compromised due to funding cuts and increased demand for services,” said one third sector leader.

The CYPFEI and ALEC Fund was designed to tackle problems early in a bid to avoid bigger issues developing. The charities interviewed were very positive about the fund, but some questioned whether such a small amount could make the difference needed.

One charity also said the reality was very different from the intention: "In practice [early intervention] is more and more difficult as funding is being pulled from less crisis-management projects”.

And managers continue to complain that the pressure to find funding prevents them from developing services and focusing on the strategic direction of their organisation.

“Generating income/grant support for head office…is an ongoing challenge with a huge amount of time, skills and capacity directed to fund-finding rather than organisational development and service improvement” said one.

John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, called for a change to the way voluntary organisations are funded.

Downie said: “The way the current procurement system and funding environments are designed means what you get is a competition rather than collaboration. We need to change our approach to one that promotes collaboration rather than competition.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “One of the key aims of the support programme being delivered as part of the Fund is to encourage closer working relationships between third sector organisations.

"We have already brought together a group of organisations with an interest in Early Learning and Childcare, including the Scottish Childminding Association and Early Years Scotland, to explore how they can better work jointly together.”

4th October 2016 by Edward Harkins

It's a matter for deep, deep, concern that the evaluation of this programme evidences constraints, and even damage, being inflicted on the willingness of third sector organisations work with each other - whilst it is recorded that "Positive relationships generally exist between third sector organisations and the Scottish Government/Education Scotland". Outcome? That Scottish Government and official agencies are benefiting, whilst the this sector suffers. Was this the way post Christie Commission Scotland and public services were meant to go?

6th October 2016 by Stephanie Fraser

If charities were in the corporate sector it's true, there would be a lot more mergers and acquisitions. We need to remember we exist to help our beneficiaries. It doesn't matter whose logo is on the letterhead. We have no divine right to keep existing so if the best solution for beneficiaries is for organisations to work together, collaborate or even merge then we should be doing that anyway - no matter who is funding.

6th October 2016 by John F Robins

I've worked in the voluntary sector for 36 years and it disgusts me at how much time and effort and money is wasted through duplication of effort by having numerous charities working on the same issues but each with their own tiers of administration, fund raisers, literature libraries, etc. literally competing with each other for funds and public/political attention. It is even worse to see charities competing for public funded contracts to provide services (often on the cheap) previously supplied by local and national government. There should also be legislation forcing medical researchers to share information and research data to stop the expensive and cruel duplication of animal research programmes.

13th October 2016 by Robert McCall

Yes, thee are the first steps to a regime where Holyrood will only fund it's own mouthpieces.Pretty much "put up with us or we shut you p""