Charity sector staff have spent far too much time trying to come up with a better term to describe the sector. Charity, nonprofit, not-for-profit, civil society, third sector, voluntary and community sector. In my 25 years in the sector, no-one has yet come up with a satisfactory word that describes the amazing, dynamic, ever-growing, disparate and diverse sector.
Whenever I see such a discussion starting online, I generally avoid it, knowing that there is no answer.
So, I am pleased to see that ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives in Voluntary Organisations, has bitten the bullet and decided to change its strapline from ‘Third Sector Leaders’ to ‘Charity Leaders Network’. Let’s hope the message permeates from these sector leaders to others.
I love words: words have power. But really, we have far better things to do than waste time trying to discover an impossible unifying word. ‘Charity’ is far from perfect: it has a legal definition, for some it has negative hand-out connotations, and for others it suggests outdated attitudes or an anti-business approach.
But it is what the public understands, and what surely most sector workers understand. Amongst ourselves, let’s qualify our use of the word when we need to – ‘social enterprises’ are distinct from charities, ‘campaigning organisations’ don’t necessarily have charity status and so on. But for all other reasons, let’s just stick with ‘charity’.
And don’t even start with the notion that ‘fundraising’ is time for replacement by development, resource mobilisation or income generation…
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