To be or not to be (a charity)

charity collecting tinEvenbreak is a social enterprise. This means that it exists to meet purely social aims. In this case, those aims are:

1. To help inclusive employers attract disabled candidates and gain the benefits of a more diverse workforce

2. To help disabled job seekers find work with employers who will value their skills, and

3. To promote the benefits of employing disabled people.

Like any other organisation, a social enterprise has to be financially sustainable, which means its income has to at least cover all of its running costs. In addition there are many other things we would like to do at Evenbreak – produce a range of awareness-raising videos, of people with all different kinds of impairments doing a wide range of different jobs to challenge the stereotypes about what disabled people can and can’t do, and hold conferences and events to promote the benefits of employing disabled people and share good practice amongst employers. All of this costs money, of course.

I am constantly reminded that registered charities have much greater access to funding bodies than any other not-for-profit organisations. Yesterday I called thirty funding bodies to confirm their eligibility crieteria. 26 said they would only support registered charities. So what’s the problem? Evenbreak is already a not-for-profit company (limited by guarantee) – any surplus income will benefit disabled job seekers, not shareholders or owners. And look at all those extra funds we might be able to access! Why not just register with the Charities Commission?

However, I refuse to make Evenbreak a charity. Why? For the simple reason that an employer hiring a talented disabled person is not an act of charity – it is a sensible business decision. Hiring our candidates helps the business (see previous blogs) – they are not doing the candidate a favour, they are employing the best person for the job. Our candidates are prime candidates – they have a wealth of experience and talent to bring with them – they are not recipients of charity (or worse “charity cases”), they are talented people with much to offer.

I realise taking this stance has a financial cost. Its not the only principle that does so! We also refuse to take adverts from employers who we don’t believe are genuine about wanting to employ a more diverse workforce. That’s just setting our candidates up to fail, and I won’t do that. Neither will we broker deals offering “half-price” adverts to attract more clients. Again, our candidates are worth more than that. “Selling” access to them for half price is an insult, and undermines all the messages we are trying to promote about the business benefits of employing disabled people.

Evenbreak may never have access to the funds that registered charities have, or use the marketing tactics that our competitors in the private sector use, but we will be faithful to our social aims, and always put our customers (disabled jobseekers) and our clients (genunely inclusive employers) first. And yes, that costs money and limits opportunities. But some principles and ethics aren’t negotiable. Evenbreak will get there – it might take longer and the financial cost is high, but we will have remained true to our values.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/
To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/
To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/evenbreak 

20 thoughts on “To be or not to be (a charity)

  1. Thanks Aidan – so do I! There are a lot of talented disabled people out there who desperately want to work (whatever the tabloids would have us believe!).

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  2. Good for you, Jane – you’re right to stand up for what you believe in. Funding from charitable and/or public sources does not come without strings attached; it may be that you’re better off building up your activities slowly but surely and without the encumbrance of restrictive funding conditions … perhaps with the more forward-thinking financial help of like-minded private sector sponsorship.

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  3. Hi Jane,
    Seems to me as if you’re conflating the legal structure of a charity with an act of charity. While I completely understand your rationale, I wonder if your mission is being thwarted by a strict adherence to an ideological framework that doesn’t benefit those you most seek to serve?

    I’m not particularly aware of the funding options available for social enterprises in the UK – clearly they differ from country to country. While I agree that public-sector and philanthropic funding doesn’t come without some expectations, neither does private funding or client funding either.

    Do these principles matter to your clients or to your candidates? Or do they only matter to you?

    I applaud you for being resolute, and simply ask these questions because it’s clear to me that you’re passionate about your mission. If they stimulate a helpful line of enquiry, wonderful. If they’re ill-informed, forgive me.

    All the best for your continued success.

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    1. I am well familiar with the charity sector having spent my career working in it. Now as a disabled person I repeatedly hear the negative views disabled people have of charity, ie the concept of the haves giving to the have nots who should be grateful.

      It is my view that the area of recruitment should not be a charity. There a lot of incredibly talented people struggling to gain employment so employers should be investing in finding them, it will show in the results.

      There are many other pitfalls in forming and running a charity that I would expect evenbreak would sail close to the wind with, not because it’s aims and actions are not ethical but because of the limitations of charity law and the issue of the forming and running of management committees.

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  4. Oh I so agree with you! I think your stance makes such a great point and delivers an important message! It must be incrediably hard though, at the same time… But is it worth it? It must be! As what we do from a point of something that is very important to us, is worth it all, in the end.

    I have had people ask why I haven’t started a charity for my anti-bullying work. The funds from sales of the book and associated gifts goes to charity and covers the cost of making/buying the item. I prefer to support other charities in my work, as there are so many already with little funds to go around at the moment, but I do wonder sometimes if I have made the right decision….

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    1. Thank you for commenting Anita – I think we have to be true to our values. It might make life a bit more challenging at times, but what price can you put on integrity?

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  5. Very thought-provoking post!

    I agree with Suze (I too admire your standing up for your principles), but I think Cameron makes good points too.

    I’ve done a lot of work for nonprofit organizations in the States. They are eligible to receive donations as “charities,” and they’re also eligible for the grants and funding sources you mention. But I’ve never thought of what they do as providing charity. One is the International Storytelling Center. For tax purposes, it is a “charity,” but its purposes are to educate people about the uses of storytelling, provide training, advocate for business uses of those skills, and so on.

    Something that might help clarify whether going “charity” is right for Evenbreak: find out what people with disabilities think. Would it be an insult or a benefit?

    I respect what you’re doing very much and hope Evenbreak enjoys great success, no matter which business structure you end up with.

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    1. Thank you Mary – you make some good points. It’s as a disabled person that I feel so strongly against the idea of employing disabled people being associated with a charitable cause, but I need to check that this isn’t just my view. Other candidates may not feel the same.

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  6. Wow – some really thoughtful feedback here, Jane, which makes me think there’s maybe not going to be a cut and dried answer.

    The biggest bugbear to me seems to be around your:
    “I refuse to make Evenbreak a charity. Why? For the simple reason that an employer hiring a talented disabled person is not an act of charity – it is a sensible business decision.”

    I had to look up ‘conflate’ 😉 and I think Cameron has a point, that you’ve been open minded enough to readily acknowledge), and that is: They are separate issues.

    I’d maybe ask yourself: What status (or however you’d refer to it) would provide Evenbreak with the best chance, opportunities, exposure, funding, etc., etc. to help its clients reach their potential?

    And take action based on your own answers.

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    1. Thanks Linda. I think that short-term answers would be different from long term answers. Evenbreak will soon be self-financing and not be reliant on grants, although I’d still want to seek funding for awareness-raising work. So, short term, access to funding would be helpful. But long term I can’t see making Evenbreak a charity doing anything other than undermining the very message we are trying to promote.

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      1. People put so much energy into tnryig to be someone else, or meet someone else’s expectations or hide who they really are. If we can just relax into ourselves, and let go of all of that, there’s so much energy left over to do something great, to be someone wonderful.

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  7. For the simple reason that an employer hiring a talented disabled person is not an act of charity – well said and I am thrilled to see you are not allowing that myth to be perpetuated, even though it has a financial impact. A brave but worthwhile stance, well done for taking it.

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  8. Thank you Sarah – I’m choosing to see it as brave rather than foolish! Time will possibly tell which of the two it really is.

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  9. One thing often in favour of charitable status would be the input the client group would have into the decision making process, through the management committee. To gain that benefit but without constituting as a charity have you considered advertising for people willing to regularly (maybe quarterly) meet (online?) and discuss the direction evenbreak is taking, the strategic direction you are taking and options that better serve an incredibly diverse community? Obviously this group would not have a legal responsibility and the decision to follow their advice or not would be entirely yours.

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  10. Funding is a decision we have to regularly discuss at church.
    I’m slightly confused though – Evenbreak is not going to be a charity, but there is a link to localgiving.com/charity higher up in this article ?

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  11. Hello Andrew, Evenbreak isn’t a registered charity – it’s a not-for-profit social enterprise. A company limited by guarantee, it has no shareholders, pays no dividends and any “profits” (surplus income) go back in for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Most of the income comes through trading activities (employers pay a small fee to advertise their jobs) and, like any organisation – charity or otherwise – Evenbreak has to be sustainable in covering its own expenses.

    However, part of the social aims of Evenbreak is about promoting the benefits of employing disabled people, which includes challenging prejudices and showcasing what disabled can do. However, those activities cost money which is not currently available from income. Grants are available for such activities, but only, it would appear, if the organisation is a registered charity as opposed to any other non-profit organisation. Hence my dilemma.

    Individuals and companies can donate to Evenbreak through the channel above, but most grant funding is closed to us (with a few welcome exceptions!)

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