Age Scotland has a vision where everyone can love later life. Our daily work is focused on realising that vision. However, these are undoubtedly testing times for the charity sector and it is important that the long term sustainability of the organisation is aligned with our vision, mission and strategic aims.
With stories circulating about a few charities taking part in less than proper fundraising activities, these actions tarnish the whole sector. At Age Scotland, we consider ourselves to have maintained the highest standards in fundraising. But to be good is not enough – we want to lead the way in standards with the development of a Commercial Enterprises division.
Age Scotland already has business enterprises within the organisation which provide products and services for older people. We also have our retail shops across the country, specialist training, and we are investing in new innovative opportunities. These operations will now come under one area of responsibility and it is proposed that a new brand identity is created for them. In bringing all our commercial activities together, we also have the opportunity to implement the highest ethical standards.
As the new head of this venture, I’m delighted by this opportunity. At Age Scotland Commercial Enterprises, if someone buys a product from us, they are buying from a commercial body with all of our net profits gift-aided back to the charity.
To mark out Age Scotland Commercial Enterprises as a separate venture, we have our own board with expertise drawn from a range of industries. This board then reports to the Age Scotland Charity Board. New opportunities will be scrutinised by the commercial board. However, final approval will always remain with the charity.
This governance structure means we don’t have commercial opportunities going straight to a charity board, which might not have the skill set to scrutinise them, but we also don’t want people on the commercial board running away with something when we must always protect the name of Age Scotland. Our most well-established business, Age Scotland Enterprises, was previously a joint venture with our English sister charity’s commercial arm, Age UK Enterprises. However, full control was moved to Age Scotland last year. Age Scotland Commercial Services can still sell some of the same products such as travel, car and home insurance deals, but will also be able to develop new products and services.
These include Planning for Later Life training for people who will retire in the next few years. We go through training all our lives yet, in retirement, older people are just left to it, even though this is a huge change. Going from a full time job to an empty week can be a huge adjustment and the courses offer practical advice on how to manage the process from a legal, financial and health perspective.
As for employers, we are seeing more businesses take up our offer of age and dementia awareness courses and training on the importance of physical activity. With a rapidly ageing population, employers are recognising that they need to be better prepared for having more older workers. These employees bring a huge wealth of experience and our courses offer practical tips on how to get the best out of the most loyal and reliable section of the workforce.
Age Scotland’s trading arm last year generated 20 per cent of the charity’s income. With the continued squeeze on public spending, Age Scotland needs to ensure that our long term future is less dependent on public funding. When we provide services that help the most vulnerable in society, our financial backing must be secure so that older people in Scotland can rely on the support we give them.
I’m looking forward to my new role in generating that vital income according to the highest ethical standards.
Brian Sloan is managing director of Age Scotland Commercial Enterprises