HRH William-UK

Charities must work together or risk confusing donors, Prince William warns

The Duke of Cambridge speaks to charity leadersThe ever-growing number of charities in Britain risks confusion for donors, competition for funds and “territorial behaviour”, the Duke of Cambridge has warned, as he calls for a “big shift” in the sector. The Duke, speaking to the Charity Commission, said the ever-growing number of good causes had led to the “siloing of expertise”, with organisations focusing too much on “individual interests” when they should instead be working together. Calling on the sector to maintain public trust despite living in an “atomised and polarised age”, he said charities must listen to “critical friends” to bring about significant change. In a speech which saw him pay tribute to the work of his parents and grandparents, he praised the “almost unsurpassed” generosity of the British people and their “largely unseen, but all priceless” acts of individual compassion. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have signalled that they intend their charity work to focus on bringing organisations together under key themes, including mental health, veterans, homelessness, wildlife and cyberbullying. Their approach, designed to suit an expanded charity sector of the 21st century, The young royals have focused on bringing charities together, with Heads Togethercomes in subtle contrast to the work done by older members of their family, who took on dozens of patronages to best raise awareness of individual organisations. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, described by the Duke as “one of the most tireless public servants of this country”, hold more than 1,000 patronages between them. The Duke told the Charity Commission’s annual public meeting he had been “encouraged of late by the examples of real willingness to work together”, highlighting seven charities helping the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and two bowel cancer charities who have recently merged. “This leaves me to think that this approach could go further,” he said. “Instead of setting up more individual charities working in the same fields, I wonder if we could do more to explore ways of combining forces, working and innovating together? “I do wonder at times if the compassion which leads people to set up or maintain charities could not be equally well directed at first finding opportunities to work with existing charities. “Competition for funds between an ever-growing number of charities, and the confusion it can cause among donors, can lead to the silo-ing of The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have more than 1,000 patronages between themexpertise and, at worst, territorial behaviour. “I know that this message is not always easy to hear: charities exist because those who work and volunteer for them each believe passionately in its importance. And they are right to do so. “But as the challenges of the future begin to bear down on us, I believe that this big shift must begin to happen – the sector must be open to collaborate, to share expertise and resources; to focus less on individual interests and more on the benefits that working together will bring. “That, I believe, is where the future lies.” The Duke told an audience his own approach to charity had been built in part on the example set to him by the Queen and his parents: his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, who took him to a homeless shelter to teach him about the world, and his father, who founded the Prince’s Trust. “As a young child, I recall evening after evening my father’s diligence and compassion as he applied himself to answering thousands  of letters and reading endless reports in order to stay on top of his ambition to do all he could to help the underprivileged,” he said. “Without my realising it, what my parents were doing was instilling in me and Harry a lifelong Diana, Princess of Wales, with a young Prince Williamhabit to put charity at the heart of our lives.” Saying the Royal Family are by no means unique in their beliefs, he argued charity, which he said “has its roots in the doctrine of Christian love” is not an “optional extra” but sustains a society that would otherwise be left an “empty shell”. “With this spirit of charity comes a responsibility on the part of those of you who channel the generosity into action,” the Duke said. “The charitable sector has to maintain the trust of those who support it, and it has to both balance continuity and embrace change.” Warning the health of charities is the “surest gauge of the health of our society”, the Duke said it is “vital” that they succeed despite the “existential threat” of finding more money in a shrinking pot. “We all know that society is becoming in lots of ways more atomised and polarised,” he said. “There is no doubt that public debate seems coarser and more personal than ever, fuelled partly by anonymity online and the commercialisation of our news. “We are running the risk of a silo society in which we allow differences of opinion to separate us. “In that context, it is more important than ever to nurture those institutions which transcend differences between us, which motivate us to put self-interest aside and which, explicitly, are beyond politics.”

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