The 5th September each year marks International Day of Charity Day, an event that should give both the general public and charities themselves a reminder of what charity is, why they exist and how they can develop to address the complex needs of the 21st Century.
A charity exists first and foremost to serve the needs of their beneficiaries, as outlined in their charitable aims. This could be alleviating poverty, supporting victims of abuse or those suffering from ill health, developing the arts, or as is the case with Rathbone Training, supporting often vulnerable young people into work through education and training.
The importance of your legacy
Every charity will develop some sort of legacy over time, and Rathbone Training developed from the pioneering work of Elfrida Rathbone in campaigning for children’s rights, especially around education. As part of the Rathbone family, she came from a long tradition of philanthropists and dedicated her life to supporting the unmet needs of vulnerable children. In 1916, she began teaching in Kings Cross at a special kindergarten for children deemed ‘ineducable’, and in 1919 Elfrida herself established a centre in Kings Cross for children excluded from school.
Fast-forward to 1969, and The Rathbone Society was founded to continue her important work. Over the years various organisations grew out of this and dedicated themselves to specific areas of Elfrida’s legacy. Rathbone Training is one such organisation, and continues to support young people achieve their potential through education.
For a charity, regularly reminding themselves of their history and that they exist to serve their beneficiaries is of the utmost importance. In practice, this means that every decision, without fail, must be made in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and perhaps this concept can be used as a barometer of their success.
However, let it be clear that this could mean many different things. Obviously, headline figures of ‘x’ many more people helped is clearly a good thing. However of equal importance could be regular user focus groups with current beneficiaries to implement a user centered provision, or winning a bid to develop and strengthen a current core service for a select group of people over expanding and looking into new fields. That said, this could equally mean reassessing and developing your business model from to ensure sustainability in the turbulent landscape of 2018, as long as it all comes back to the beneficiaries.
Success comes full circle
Indeed, if charities can guarantee this focus, then it will have a knock-on effect for society and the public in general. Public trust for charities is crucial, and individuals rightly need to know that the money and time they donate to their chosen cause is being used in the best possible way (This article is not here to argue what percentage of each pound donated should be spent on what - it shouldn’t matter as long as the beneficiaries come first). When this is certain, the public will steadily be more willing to give to charitable causes, which will in turn lead to stronger more involved communities, a fairer society and finally successful charities.