Kristy Dorsey: Charities playing the lottery fund

CHARITIES can’t just wait for their lucky numbers to come up says Kristy Dorsey

Charities cant afford to wait for their lucky numbers but do need to take measured gambles. Picture: JP

Twenty years ago today, a consortium called Camelot beat off seven other contenders to win the contract to run the UK’s first national lottery. Rivals included the UK Lottery Foundation headed by Richard Branson, who lost out despite promises to give all profits to charity.

Camelot’s owners have changed since then, but the organisation has maintained control of the lottery through subsequent licensing rounds despite periodic controversy over pay packages for its top executives. Originally a joint venture between Cadbury Schweppes, De La Rue, Racal, GTech and ICL, Camelot has since 2010 been owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the Canadian investment fund.

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Throughout these incarnations, Camelot has given an average of about 28p from every pound to good causes. According to figures released last week, that comes to more than £31 billion in charitable donations during the past two decades.

Some would argue that figure could and should be higher, but there’s no disputing the value of that cash in a third sector where budgets are under continuing strain.

This is particularly true for smaller charities, which have borne the brunt of the downturn and ensuing austerity measures. Research has shown that receiving a lottery grant tends to boost other income streams, with smaller charities getting the greatest positive effect.

There are roughly 22,000 charities operating in Scotland, most quite modest in size. The challenges they face and the essential work they do will be highlighted next month during the Small Charity Week of events organised by the Foundation for Social Improvement.

As part of that, organisations have until the end of this week to submit a short application for a chance to raise both funds and their profile through eBay. Five winners will feature in eBay’s [email protected] area during the week-long event beginning on 16 June.

Like lottery grants, the chance to team up with a heavyweight such as eBay is a fantastic opportunity for any small organisation.

But, as lucrative as they may be, no one-off breakthrough can substitute for a solid day-to-day strategy. Now, more than ever, the voluntary sector needs to get more business-like.

Some things do cost money, but cash isn’t the only kind of investment out there. Companies are fond of saying that their people are their most valuable asset, and this should also be the case in the world of not-for-profit.

It’s not just a matter of doling out raises and promotions. In any type of endeavour, most people want the latitude to grow into their work, taking on more responsibility as their experience allows.

Risk is also necessary, even in the button-down world of charity. With limited time and resources in an increasingly competitive market for funding, voluntary organisations must innovate, but this is only possible when leaders are prepared to take a smart, measured gamble. «