Why do we have charities?

I’ve some great thought provoking responses from colleagues about the CEO SleepOut campaign I’m involved in which have got to the heart of the matter.

Such as, why don’t the organisers invite some homeless people along to the evening and enable them to talk directly with participants? And isn’t what homeless people need is to be given respect rather than been seeing as beneficiaries of charity? I’ve raised these questions with the organisers so we’ll see what they say about that.

But more fundamentally, these questions ask some important questions about why we have charities at all, what the relationship is between donors, charitable organisations and beneficiaries, and whether the act of ‘doing good’ or ‘just giving’ actually does more harm than good (in that it just provides short term, superficial Elastoplast solutions to things which require more systematic, substantial solutions to deep rooted social issues): or actually takes more than it gives (in that campaigning takes the focus of the problem away from the root cause of that problem and ‘gives’ the focus to those people who are on the receiving end of the charitable ‘give’.

One obvious answer is that if charities didn’t do what they do, no-one else (e.g. The State) is going to step up to the mark to address the short term pressures that people face here and now, rather than in some distant future when the state might have stepped up. So if a charity’s purpose can only be short term – then that’s because the long term is too distant a proposition for those who need solutions, right here, right now.

But there’s lot to think about here so many thanks for your responses!

But in the meantime, if you can contribute to the campaign, it would be great to hear from you just here: