England’s Financial Times reports concern that cuts in government grants to charities will impair the charities’ ability to provide services, and particularly to pick up the slack produced by cuts in direct government services. The Nonprofiteer wonders what this is doing in the newspaper, as it falls into the category of Dog Bites Man.
Defenders of the cuts argue that they’ll provide incentive for government-dependent charities to raise money from the private sector and individuals. While the Nonprofiteer yields to no one in her insistence that charities become less dependent on grants of any kind and spend more time asking for money from individuals, she also knows that this defense is crap—at best irresponsible, at worst deliberately false.
No one can realistically suggest that charities which have essentially been created by the government to provide services it funds (probably for the purpose of evading unions) can somehow instantly replace 95% of their operating budgets with contributions of a pound or ten, or even a hundred. It takes time to develop individual donors, and surely no one would seriously suggest that charities have neglected this task for lack of “incentive,” because government grants keep them in the lap of luxury. There’s never enough money, as a result of which there’s also never enough time to raise money if you’re also going to serve your clients.
So which is it, Mr. Cameron? Do you want charities spending their time providing services that your government now won’t, or do you want them spending their time raising money to provide those services? “Both” is not a realistic answer.
Conservative governments should really have the courage of their convictions. If you’re going to cut public services, then say to the public, “We’re not going to provide these services.” It’s just dishonest to say, “We’re not going to provide them, but don’t worry, someone else is,” when no one else has anything like the resources necessary.
Apply as appropriate to the American situation.