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Charity Status

Responsible charities need to take a lead in rebuilding public trust

The Charity Commission published a report in July 2016 that revealed public distrust in charities has never been worse. Sad though this is, it’s not really surprising given headline grabbing examples of poor governance, data protection abuses, aggressive tactics and lack of transparency about how donations are spent. In this context, it’s getting harder to fundraise from individuals and it’s become clear that responsible charities need to take a lead in rebuilding public trust by being super-ethical and transparent in their practices.

Scene Change presents... Coming of Age at the Playhouse Studio (TIBER). March 2016.
Scene Change presents... Coming of Age at the Playhouse Studio. March 2016.

Why do some organisations have charity status when their work, at first glance, might appear commercial?

But here’s another issue: Type “charity” into your search engine and the definition you’ll find is something like, “an organisation set up to provide help and raise money for those in need”. So our concern is there’s not only public distrust but a deeper confusion about why some organisations (like ours) have charity status when their work, at first glance, doesn’t sit naturally with the public perception of charity – especially when they have trading arms and appear commercial. 

Providing public benefit

Here’s a quick explanation: Charities must have a clear purpose which shapes their main activities and their public benefit work. It’s OK to charge for goods and services but if the income is significant, the value of the public benefit must provide some counter-balance. So this means charities can charge and make a surplus with one hand but must give out generously with the other. We do this in various ways – not least through our Community Engagement and Education work.

Securing income in the short, medium and long term to secure the work of e&P

Like other theatres, our income from ticket sales simply does not cover running costs which means that we need to build goodwill and fundraise to create a dependable income stream so that we can continue making brave theatre that resonates with the diverse communities we serve in the wider Liverpool City Region. To that end, through various means, we seek to secure funds in the short, medium and long term. For instance, we encourage regular support from individual supporters through Homegrown. And with the long term in mind, we’re asking individuals to think about their Hopes and Dreams for Liverpool and its people beyond their lifetime and to consider leaving a gift in their Will to e&P to help secure the work of our theatres for years to come.  Thankfully, a number of Trusts and Foundations continue to be generous in their support of e&P, often making a financial commitment over three years.

If you’d like to know more about what charity status means in practice and the difference it makes, or if you wish to make a donation, please call Sarah Randell, Head of Development, on 0151 706 9115. Thank you.