When the coronavirus pandemic took hold early in 2020, charities were among the first to respond to the resulting social and economic distress. But recent scandals and a more critical climate have overshadowed the vital role they play.
What Have Charities Ever Done for Us? rebalances the debate, using case studies and interviews to illustrate how charities support people and communities, foster heritage and culture and pioneer responses to crucial social, ethical and environmental questions.
It also sets the historical context, examines cases that have attracted criticisms, analyses the political response and considers how the governance, transparency and independence of charities could be improved.
Charities at their best are the conscience of society and benefit most people at some point in their lives. This book brings to life the breadth and depth of their work and the contribution they make to social progress.
“This is a book that stands up for the third sector and gives a straight account of the things that damage its reputation… The book uses numerous concrete examples, bolstered by interviews, to emphasise the immense importance of NGOs and how it’s no longer possible to imagine our world without them.” Filantro Fundraising Echo
“Journalistic appeal and outstanding expertise combine to provide an impartial, comprehensive understanding of the sector. Perceptive insights into current opportunities suggest even greater future roles for charities.” Charles Jardine, London South Bank University
“As someone who has led charities for most of my professional life and has written and broadcast about the third sector, I only wish I had been able to read this authoritative, thoughtful and very engaging book when I was setting out; it would have made me not only a more informed commentator but also a better leader.” Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, The RSA (The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)
“In an age when generalised cynicism extends to charities and their donors, it is important to be reminded of the good achieved by those who set up, run and voluntarily donate their time and money to try and make things better. The charity sector is under appreciated, often patronised and rarely given sufficient credit. I hope this book helps to change that.” Beth Breeze, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent
“This analysis of charities and their value would be welcome at any time but is especially useful at present with charities facing huge challenges as we emerge from the pandemic.” Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, President, NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations)
“Charities are needed, yet threatened right now, and this engaging, exhaustive and passionately argued book offers a corrective to simplistic accounts that serve to marginalise charities’ role in society.” James Rees, University of Wolverhampton
“This timely book describes the inter dependent web of charities and civil society organisations and the public good they bring and clearly illuminates a world that is too often misunderstood … it will help those in charities, and those who observe them, to navigate our increasingly uncertain future.” Dame Julia Unwin, Civil Society Futures
“This book provides a topical, well-researched and readable account of the invaluable but often controversial role of charities today, with rich detail drawn from the authors’ first-hand experience as leading charity journalists.” Cathy Pharoah, The Business School (formerly Cass), City, University of London
“A comprehensive sequence of deep dives into the vital contribution of charities across the UK, enhanced by a range of robust and differing stakeholder perspectives.” Dame Mary Marsh, Chair of Trustees, RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health)
“A useful and timely reminder of the many ways in which charities support the wellbeing of people in Britain, both in crisis and out of it. Packed with data, and information behind the data, on the evolution of the sector over recent decades and its condition today, a vital resource for anyone who cares about the future of charity in the UK.” Lord (Gus) O'Donnell, Frontier Economics and Pro Bono Economics
“This is a timely, highly readable and well researched contribution offering a rare combination of hard data with engaging and lively examples.” Alex Murdoch, London South Bank University
“A fascinating read about UK's vibrant and diverse charity sector’s contribution across various causes, tracing its impressive history and evolution, brilliantly capturing how charities fundamentally transform lives and continue to enjoy support of the British public.” Girish Menon, STiR Education
Stephen Cook is a journalist and author with extensive experience in national newspapers and magazines, including 18 years at The Guardian. He has published five novels and two non-fiction books.
Tania Mason is a journalist, copywriter, editor and events producer with more than 25 years’ experience across various industries, most recently charities and civil society. She currently edits Governance & Leadership magazine.
PART 1 What are charities, and why do we argue
The many faces of charities
What has gone wrong?
‘Stick to your knitting’: the curbs on campaigning
PART 2 Changing the world
The health of the nation
Equality, slavery and human rights
Rights for women and gay liberation
Protecting animals and the natural world
PART 3 I mproving lives and communities
Local action and self-help
Supporting other people
The wider world
PART 4 A junior partner in the welfare state?
Public service contracts
Reducing the burden on the state
Charities as pioneers
PART 5 Preserving the past, preparing for the future
Castles, canals and stately homes
Museums and the perils of charitable status
The minefield of charitable education
Pushing the boundaries of medicine and science
Part 6 The way ahead
Reviews and strategies
Charity governance: fit for purpose?
Coming clean with the public
The pursuit of independence