2017 - The Year in Review
"In 2017, we have been successful at building a higher profile in, and engagement with, the media at national and local levels, successfully driving the public narrative towards the positive difference and impact that the organisations in the sector make in the lives of people and communities all over Ireland and indeed, internationally. And this will continue in 2018."
And so, here we are, approaching the end of another year filled with many changes – for our members, for the charity, community & voluntary sector and indeed for The Wheel as well. And at year-end, we are laying the groundwork – in partnership and consultation with members – to deal with the challenges of 2018 and beyond.
As Ireland’s largest body representing charities and community & voluntary organisations, we continue to work closely on your behalf with Departments, statutory bodies and politicians to address a wide range of issues which can be grouped under our following three policy-priority areas:
- Increasing the credibility of our sector and restoring public trust and confidence;
- Ensuring the community and voluntary sector’s roles are valued and appropriately funded. And our ‘3-R’ framework summarises our work: we are looking for charities to be respected and recognized for the work they do, resourced properly, and appropriately regulated;
- Progressing understanding and appreciation of active citizenship especially in the context of local development reform and alignment.
In 2017 we were pleased to have made a lot of progress in advancing this agenda, with highlights including the establishment of a dedicated new Department for our sector (a key ‘ask’ of The Wheel); the publication of the Charity Regulator’s consultative panel report on the regulation of fundraising (which did not introduce any new regulations, but which made constructive recommendations on a Fundraising Code); the establishment of an emerging strategy for our sector, within the (still ongoing) work of the Department of Rural & Community Affairs; the commitment to an action plan for the development of social enterprise in Ireland; a VAT compensation scheme for charities; and, the progress made in shaping the principles for commissioning public services, which we are successfully shaping to be more suitable for our sector. This diagram offers a snapshot of the various advocacy processes we are involved in.
In 2017, we have been successful at building a higher profile in, and engagement with, the media at national and local levels, successfully driving the public narrative towards the positive difference and impact that the organisations in the sector make in the lives of people and communities all over Ireland and indeed, internationally. And this will continue in 2018.
In that regard, we were particularly thrilled to deliver the inaugural Charity Impact Awards just this month, which delivered widespread attention both within the sector and also within the media (and indeed the 30,000 individual people who cast a vote during the campaign!) on the positive impact of the great work done by Ireland’s charities and community/voluntary groups. It is clear to us that members like you have all got an impact-story to tell, and people are obviously eager to listen. You can learn more about the Awards here: www.charityimpactawards.ie
Our Annual Conference & Charity Expo took place in June and featured fascinating inputs on such topics as the role of charities and community & voluntary organisations in the age of “post-truth” politics; public trust in charities, and a new national strategy for the community, voluntary and charity sector. Preceded the night before by our Annual Lecture & Dinner, with the keynote address by Professor Tom Collins, I think it’s fair to say that The Wheel’s Annual Conference has firmly established itself as a real standout event in the annual charity-sector calendar!
Engagement with our members remains really strong around the practical supports and advice that we provide. We are delighted to have grown our member numbers this year and to know that we are ending the year with 1,326 members!
We are really pleased that we welcomed so many people to our nation-wide training and advice sessions all over Ireland. We’ve totted up the numbers, and they paint a significant picture: in total, we delivered a total of 185 events in 47 different locations in Ireland (yes folks, that’s a whopping 46 different places outside Dublin!) attended by 4,700 people. (And within this, there were 61 events reserved solely for members, which were attended by 1,859 people). We responded to 904 formal queries over the year and were asked to do 41 customised training sessions in-house within organisations. Our EU programmes team doubled in size, to two people in 2017 and has been successful at helping organisations secure funds. If you are interested in knowing what’s on in 2018, you can see it here.
A New Strategic Plan and a New Look
Internally, within The Wheel, the ratification by members of our new strategy Stronger Charities, Stronger Communities, in June, was a highlight of the year. Setting out our objectives for the next four years and building upon the success of recent years, Stronger Charities, Stronger Communities is The Wheel’s blueprint for achieving, with our members, a more fair and just society for all.
As you will already have noticed, we also completed a rebranding exercise on foot of the new strategy, and it has been rolling out in phases since its launch in June. Work has commenced on the development of our new website which we expect to be launching in spring 2018. More to follow on that soon.
You may have also witnessed The Wheel providing a strong and coherent voice for our sector in the media. We published several opinion pieces Irish Times (e.g. 28 September, 8 December) as well as letters (e.g. 29 November). We also participated in 26 television and radio interviews in 2017. This included interviews on RTÉ Six One News, RTÉ Radio 1 Morning Ireland, RTÉ Radio 1 News at One, Newstalk Breakfast, TV3 News, TV3 Ireland AM and others).
I would like to thank each and every member of the staff team in the office who have worked so very hard throughout the year on our many programmes, as well as our four regional champions (and don’t forget to check them out here). Equally, I would also like to thank the volunteer members of our board of directors (our Charity Trustees), who consistently provide strong and strategic leadership for the organisation and for me personally. All of the team – in the office and on the board – collectively combine into what I think is an extraordinary bunch of people, all dedicated to achieving our vision of a thriving charity, community & voluntary sector at the heart of a fair and just Ireland.
In closing, it is clear that at a practical level, the operating environment for the sector clearly continues to be a challenging one. The ongoing demands of regulations and reporting at multiple levels and in ever-more onerous ways, the perennial problem of sourcing funding, the impending introduction of GDPR, and so much more – you could certainly be forgiven for perhaps feeling somewhat overwhelmed at times.
And yet, our members have continued to meet those challenges head-on. The solidarity, support and strength of voice that we can all get from being connected to each other through The Wheel is vitally important. I am constantly reminded that the very existence of any charity / community / voluntary group provides a real-life example of a quality that is very important in our lives – which I phrase quite simply here as: the ability to think about, care and show compassion for others; the seeing of what change is possible or needed; and the rising above apathy to do something about making things different, and better, for others….. in a nutshell, it’s about getting involved! And anyone connected with a charity, community or voluntary organisation does that in spades.
Thank you for caring enough to do what you do in your communities all over Ireland.
Lastly, I want to wish you and your colleagues, along with all of your loved ones and friends, a very Merry Christmas and an inspiring – and inspired – New Year!