Written by robertnieri on March 15, 2017

Money bag

Tales of George Michael’s philanthropy have only come to light in the wake of his death. But that’s often the point: while some wealthy people may be happy for the world to know of their largesse, others prefer to do good under cover of anonymity.

As competition intensifies for diminishing pots of grant funding, commissioning authorities continue to squeeze charities’ margins for delivery of paid services and the public’s confidence in charities remains fragile following the fundraising controversies of recent years, what are the best approaches to adopt in tapping into the generosity of people of substance?

What motivates high net worth individuals to give, where can they be found and what could charities be doing better to engage with them?

Come and listen to the thoughts of Geoffrey Bond OBE DL, at the charity roundtable we are hosting next Tuesday 21 March (5:30-7:00pm) at our Piccadilly office, 1 Vine Street, W1J 0AH.

Geoffrey is uniquely placed to offer his personal perspective. Businessman, broadcaster and collector, Geoffrey was an original expert on the Antiques Roadshow and a director of Central Independent Television, not to mention Past Master of a number of London Livery Companies, Sheriff of the City of London in 2004, as well as continuing to serve as Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Nottinghamshire.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch but this seminar is free and, what’s more, we shall be offering our guests some of the finest biscuits in the West End.

Tempted? If so, please email to book your place.

But hurry, while stocks last (of chocolate biscuits).

Robert Nieri



Written by robertnieri on February 24, 2017


Balloon, heart, sky, blue sky, red heart, clouds

Oscar night is a-coming and all the bets are off. It’s a question not of “if”, but of “how many” for La La Land. I’ve not seen any of the other contenders but I love this film. Who cares if Ryan Gosling can’t sing, or there aren’t any ambitiously choreographed scenes after the first five minutes?

Emma Stone is beguiling and bewitching, the soundtrack is wonderful, the colours vibrant and there has never been a truer or more touching depiction of reaching for the stars on the silver screen.

But it isn’t real.

What is real is a charities sector battered on the head by rolled up editions of the red top newspapers, decrying the latest charities scandal.

The Daily Mail has done valuable work with its exposés of unacceptable fundraising practice, which has in part led to wholesale review of fundraising regulation, culminating in the establishment of the Fundraising Regulator in 2016 and the setting up of the Fundraising Preference Service.

It is true that the boards of trustees of a small minority of charities have not exercised sufficient control over and have turned a blind eye to the practices of commercial call-centres to whom they outsourced their fundraising function. And it is right that for charities, for whom reputation is everything, the ends (maximising income generation) cannot justify the means (pestering members of the public for money, in particular vulnerable people and in inappropriate ways, especially when those people have taken all reasonable steps to inform charities they do not want to receive unsolicited requests for money.

But my view, which informs my approach as a lawyer to servicing the charity sector, is that the popular press and those who listen to what it says can be stuck in a Victorian mindset in continuing to think that charities should “stick to their knitting,” not get involved in campaigning and should do so based on the largesse of the giving public, with the bare minimum of paid employees, with chief executives who are prepared to accept a below market rate salary for running complex organisations that is at the “right level” of pay for the charities sector and should never have the temerity to build any element of surplus into their costings in order to cover their core operational costs.

Now that, my friends, is what is truly La La Land.

A key question for charities in 2017 is how they are to respond to adverse press, increased regulation and tighter margins, yet at the same when there is ever more need for resources to meet the increasing needs of beneficiaries who the State cannot/ will not support?

Read on in the coming weeks and months in this resuscitated blog and contribute to the debate.

In the meantime, let the lights go down, settle back in your chair with that box of popcorn you know you should really have made yourself at home for a fraction of the price and smuggled into the cinema under your coat, and let Emma and Ryan transport you far away to a place where dreams really do come true.

Implementation of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016

Written by robertnieri on May 22, 2016

Dog, fun, dressing up, canine, pet, animal, singular

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a plan.

A plan?”  I hear you say.

To establish our place in the world if we vote to leave the EU?

For England to get through to the later stages of the European Football Championship this summer?

To get Newcastle United back into the Premier League, at the first time of asking?

No, much more important than any of that. The Cabinet Office has just published a timetable explaining when the different sections of the new Charities Act 2016 are going to take effect and this is broken down into three phases – July 2016, October 2016 and April 2017.

As we’ve previously highlighted in this blog, the Act gives more powers to the Charity Commission to regulate charities, legal recognition of social investment by charities and will make charities tighten up on their fundraising practices and encourage them to adopt best practice (where they don’t already).

In a sentence, from this July the Commission will get new powers to suspend trustees/ senior office holders within charities, powers to remove disqualified trustees and other powers in relation to the operation of charities, and the formal power for charities to make social investments will be in force; this October will see the introduction of additional requirements regarding fundraising and the introduction of the Commission “yellow card” to individuals and charities; and next April will see the introduction of those circumstances in which automatic disqualification from being a trustee will arise.

From this Monday, 23 May, the Commission begins a consultation about how it is to use its power to disqualify individuals from being trustees and holding senior management functions.

For the detail, read all about it here:

0845 274 6918


Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016: Protecting the Integrity of the Sector

Written by robertnieri on May 12, 2016

We’ve recently written a piece on the new Act for the Solicitors Journal Charity Supplement. The Act received royal assent on 16 March this year, although none of its provisions are yet in force. While enacted to protect charities and to facilitate social investment, the Act also contains significant provisions designed to promote better fundraising practice to restore public trust in charities. The Act leaves us in no doubt that work is being done to regain trust and confidence in the sector. The challenge for charities moving forward is to embed compliance and good practice at all levels, as the foundation for realising their mission and keeping hold of that precious reputation.

Some of the key points to note include new powers for the Commission:

  • to issue official warnings to trustees or charities where it considers they have committed a breach of duty or been guilty of other misconduct or mismanagement – introduced to act as a reasonable and proportionate way of dealing with low-level breaches of statutory provisions or breaches of fiduciary duty, where the risk and impact on charitable assets and services is relatively low.
  • to publish warnings (but must give prior notice of the intention to issue warnings and then take into account representations made within the specified notice period) and there is no right of appeal against the Commission’s decision – individual trustees or charities will have to seek judicial review
  • to extend an existing period of suspension of a trustee or officer to a maximum of two years, taking into consideration an individual’s conduct regarding any other charity or any other conduct it considers likely to damage public trust and confidence in charities. The Act has also added to the list of occasions that automatically bring about disqualification to cover terrorism offense, use of proceeds of crime, money laundering, bribery and convictions for perjury.

The Act has introduced a new requirement for large charities (generally those with more than £1m annual turnover) to include in their annual reports a statement containing specific information, in particular whether the charity has monitored fundraising activities carried on by a third party on its behalf and, if so, how it has done so, the number of complaints received by the charity or third party about its fundraising activity, and what the charity has done to protect vulnerable people and other members of the public.

Fundraising regulations are also covered under the new Act. The Commission’s recent draft revised guidance on charity fundraising emphasises the important role of trustees as guardians of a charity’s values and reiterates their ultimate responsibility for the way in which their charity is run and how fundraising is conducted in its name.

To view the full article in the Solicitors Journal, please click this link.

Robert Nieri Feb 16 H&S small (1)

Robert Nieri

Social impact bonds, the growth of social enterprise, the Government Outcomes Lab and paying your debts on time…

Written by robertnieri on April 4, 2016


Money bag

We read with interest in Third Sector before Easter of Cabinet Office setting up a centre of excellence to boost social impact bonds.

Apparently the “Government Outcomes Lab” has been established in partnership with the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University to speed up the development of social impact bonds and to encourage innovative public sector commissioning.

The partnership between the Cabinet Office and the university will run for five years and will develop research and provide practical support to the third sector.

Apparently, the Government Outcomes Lab will enter an “intensive phase of design and recruitment”, including the appointment of a new director.

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, said: “SIBs represent a revolution in the way government can deliver public services. They generate huge potential savings for the taxpayer, the prospect of increased revenues for charities and social enterprises and returns to social investors.

“The Government Outcomes Lab will give local authorities the support they need to develop more SIBs more quickly and build a centre of research excellence within the UK. It will continue our world leadership in this area and help us to build a truly compassionate society.”

Professor Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, said: “Governments everywhere will benefit from research, data and training that helps them to focus on outcomes and to work better with the private and not-for-profit sectors.

“The partnership with the Cabinet Office brings the strength and momentum of the Blavatnik School of Government together with a powerful transformative initiative in the UK government.”

This is all great.

However, we have been told of at least one instance recently where charities have been delivering an important project financed by a social impact bond and hitting all the milestone in accordance with Government requirements.

The only problem is that in return the Government has allegedly not been paying on time for the service in accordance with its own agreement.

We are not familiar with the detail of the case but, if correct, that would be very troubling. Charities have had to work hard to adapt to the brave new world of payment by results. How damaging would it be for the growth of social enterprise if the Government were to undermine its own efforts to promote social enterprise by not paying people on time for the great job they are doing?

It would also be contrary to legislation and the Government’s own guidance on paying undisputed debts within 30 days:

The Government Outcomes Lab sounds super but we humbly submit often it’s getting the simple things right first that make all the difference.

We would be interested to know if charities out there have had unhappy experiences similar to that alleged to have happened in the case reported to us.

We are sure the Government would want to know about any such issues, to address any concerns and to fully play its part in ensuring the UK leads the world with the development of social enterprise financing.






Written by robertnieri on March 23, 2016

new kid on the blog

We hope you like reading our blog.

We don’t like to give air time to our competitors, except where it will help those we are there to serve so, even though he may be competing with us for your valuable spare time, when you’ve done all your work and like nothing better than to sit down with a cup of tea and read our latest post, allow us, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce for your delight and delectation, Mr William Shawcross, Chair of the Charity Commission, and his miraculous new blog, which will allow the commission…

“…to update regularly on our work, address topics of interest and communicate how we are becoming a more effective regulator. Over the coming months, a variety of voices will discuss a range of issues, giving their perspective on the commission’s work.

The blog discusses the commission’s engagement with 165,000 charities and their 1 million trustees, and how the commission has transformed its work after a 50% fall in budget. It goes on to talk about new powers in the Charities Bill, a more digital approach to working with charities designed to save time and money, and a new focus on serious regulatory work.

You can sign up for updates as new blogs are published via GOV.UK.”

Sounds like a must-read for you all (even though we bet their pictures aren’t as good as ours).

A Happy Easter to you all.


Forthcoming talk at CASS Business School

Written by robertnieri on March 16, 2016


A very interesting-looking talk is on the horizon at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at CASS Business School in London on Wednesday 20 April 2016 – 6 for 6.30pm.

Entitled “The Second Curve – future challenges for charitable organisations” it will be given by the world famous Charles Handy whose books have sold over 2 million copies world-wide and include “The Empty Raincoat”, “Understanding Organisations”, and “The New Philanthropists”.

The seminar marketing says:

Mr Handy’s ideas burst upon the field of management and leadership of organisations like a breath of fresh air.

Many management gurus have important lessons for charities and other nonprofits but so often they educate in the context of a single bottom line of profitability. Charities have more ambitious aims; they want to change the world in order to help their beneficiaries. This Charity Talk Special, with Charles Handy, looks at nonprofit management and leadership in that context.    

In this special we are retaining the Charity Talks formula and will start with a brief case study of a charity to which Charles has been contributing, Caplor Horizons, which supports other charities. This will be presented by Ian Williams, their Executive Director. He was previously a long-standing leader of Concern Universal, an international NGO.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 at 6pm for a 6.30pm start at Cass Business School, 106 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8TZ

In addition, you will receive a free copy of his book, and a networking opportunity over food and wine, all for £30. There cannot be better value, so book your place here.,43OH8,MGOA95,EVP3Y,1

Being trusting souls we have done so, and will be there to look, listen and learn.

Let us know if you are going too.




Bash for staff where the trustees get bashed

Written by robertnieri on February 18, 2016

Care 3

It’s not hard to pick up a paper these days and find a negative news story about charities. Here’s another one:

To quote from the Manchester Evening News:

Hospital bosses splashed more than £16,000 of charitable cash donated by patients and relatives on a lavish staff awards ceremony.

Pennine Acute and its sister charity agreed to foot half the bill for the 2015 awards due to a shortfall in sponsorship.

Figures obtained by the M.E.N. reveal more than £33,000 in total was spent on the bash in November – including a £5,500 fee for compere BBC Breakfast’s Bill Turnbull.

The cost of the staff awards is usually covered solely by external sponsors, and not taxpayers’ money.

But a shortfall in sponsorship left event organisers with a £16,615 gap in their budget.

It was then agreed by the board of the Pennine Acute Hospitals charity to use cash from charitable donations to settle the remainder of the bill.

The event, held at the Sheridan Suite in Miles Platting, cost £33,515 in total with £16,900 covered by sponsors.

A breakdown of costs show organisers spent £11,340 on a dinner for 420 members of staff, £1,575 on a drinks reception and £504 on 84 bottles of wine.

Of course, especially at this time, charities are working harder than ever to avoid giving anyone an excuse to keep kicking them, but we wonder whether the narrative for charities needs more work?

Charities are not magic boxes into which scarce resource is channelled which miraculously provides (in this case) care for those in hospital without any core costs, and where the charity can spend every penny of every pound on the service provided.

The drones and robots are on their way but, in the meantime, sick people are treated by caring professionals and we bet that once in a while those professionals, especially the nurses and hospital staff working unsociable hours for low pay, value being appreciated by those who employ them and that continuing to motivate and support those staff is a key element in ensuring that care provided to people in hospital is maintained.

We’re no accountants (lawyers like words, not numbers, although we are gradually waking up the need to be numerate) but we reckon that the extravagant cost highlighted in the article works out at a whopping £30 per head for each member of staff who attended the dinner.

Of course it’s a question of degree and there is always balance to be struck, between a focus on what a charity is there to achieve and valuing those who are needed to achieve the charity’s objectives

The article does say, if you look hard enough, that:

Trust chiefs say the awards are important way of boosting staff morale and recognising their hard work.

Maybe there should have been more context: how many readers of the article would begrudge a staff nurse earning £18,000 a year being treated on one night in the year in thanks for the work she or he does on the other 365 days and nights ?(yes, you read that right, it’s a leap year).

Our strap line is “answers, not options” but just for once, these are the options: you give us the answer!

What do YOU think?…

The Age of Scrutiny

Written by robertnieri on February 5, 2016

Spring feeling

Winter is coming.

That’s the name of the first episode of Games of Thrones, now about to enter its sixth season.

For those not familiar with the HBO show, it’s fair to say that a great number of gruesome things have happened in the first five series, bearing out the motto of the House of Stark.

The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. The Starks, being the lords of the North, strive to always be prepared for the coming of winter, which hits their lands the hardest.

First it was the bankers, then the press and now it appears to be the turn of the charities sector to be flagellated in public.

In the last two weeks we have had the reports of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee into the fundraising controversy of 2015 and then into Kids’ Company.

Now Age UK is having to deal with accusations from The Sun that the charity recommends a special tariff that is more expensive than E.ON’s cheapest rate, netting Age UK £6m a year in the process.

The sector is told that this is the last chance for self-regulation of charity fundraising, the Charity Commission is ever more hawkish and the Charities Bill is about to received Royal Assent and will give the Commission more power to intervene in charities and to get rid of charity trustees.

But as the management gurus say, every threat is an opportunity and, as a crazy German guy once said, anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Who would want to be a charity trustee?

Those who continue to want to make a difference, whether it’s to protect the planet, look after the most vulnerable or to safeguard and promote our culture.

Who are aware of the importance of processing personal data in accordance with the law and best practice and respecting the privacy of their supporters.

And who remain mindful of the responsibilities of trusteeship and do their very best to discharge them, providing strategic leadership, setting an example of good governance, challenging and supporting their executive team, while allowing them to get on with their job.

Look out of the window because the blossom on the trees and the birds are making their way back from their winter break in Africa.

Spring is coming……

We can be heroes, for more than one day…

Written by robertnieri on January 13, 2016


Much has been said and written in recent days about David Bowie.

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter, actor, agent provocateur.

We however find it surprising that more has not been made about his persistent and pithy lyrics commenting on charitable matters and activities.

Frankly, we are amazed that the following haven’t yet been picked up:

Warning on global warming and the need to look after our planet and to promote more sustainable living:

News guy wept and told us
earth was really dying

Cried so much his face was wet

then I knew he was not lying

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes

We’ve got five years, what a surprise

We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot

We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got

The importance of hospitals and blind/ visually impaired and hearing loss charities in our society:

I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision


The need to champion diversity, stand up to bullying and to show solidarity:

We bought a lot of things
to keep you warm and dry

And a funny old crib on which the paint won’t dry

I bought you a pair of shoes

A trumpet you can blow

And a book of rules

On what to say to people

when they pick on you

‘Cause if you stay with us you’re gonna be pretty Kookie too

Of course, almost everyone is aware of Bowie’s foresight (back in 1971) about the swingeing cuts to the Charity Commission’s operating budget and its transition from a source of bespoke advice and assistance to the third sector, to much more of a regulator, largely confining its support to charities to the provision of online guidance:

(Turn and face the strange)

Don’t want to be a richer man

(Turn and face the strange)

Just gonna have to be a different man

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time

But maybe your usual image of Bowie as a sophisticated and canny avant garde artist wouldn’t be associated with our final quote, to leave this blog on an upbeat note:

Fill your heart with love today
Don’t play the game of time

Things that happened in the past

Only happened in your Mind

Gentleness clears the soul
Love cleans the mind

And makes it Free.

A prize to the first person who correctly provides the song titles of all the above by responding to