There was also an interesting piece in, I think, the Observer, by Camila Batmanghelidjh, who runs the Kids Company, and a follow-up comment piece in The Times, by Libby Purves. The point being made was that too many organisations in the not-for-profit sector spend too much of their time fundraising and applying for grants, and never quite knowing where the next cheque is coming from.
Camila Batmanghelidjh was - slightly disingenuously, it has to be said - saying that the Kids Company would have to close at the end of March 2008, when its current funding runs out, if more funding isn't found. In truth, a lot of organisations - including quite a few in my constituency - are in the same situation, as we're approaching the end of a three year funding cycle. Most of them will have their funding renewed once the Comprehensive Spending Review, which allocates funding for the next three years, is out of the way.
I appreciate that the uncertainty is a problem and that there are too many different funding streams, requiring too many bids. I'm not sure, however, what the answer is. If we allocated funding for, say 10 year stretches, that would then rule out supporting new priorities and new organisations which come up mid-point during that cycle. And requiring organisations to re-bid at reasonable intervals (in many cases, it used to be annually, so three years is an improvement) means that they can be judged as to whether they've fulfilled their objectives, or whether someone else could carry out the job better.
I think that simplifying the funding streams is a step forward, which is, I believe what Ed Miliband has been tasked with doing at the Cabinet Office. Another area which needs examining is the plethora of new initiatives, which often means that an organisation must show it is doing 'innovative' work if it is to attract funding. This sometimes penalises those who have been doing excellent, but fairly mainstream work for a long time. Of course the counter-argument to this is that if it's mainstream, it ought to receive mainstream funding, and not be subject to the bidding process - which is what Camila Batmanghelidjh is arguing.