Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Population Concern

  In order to help you to conduct an inquiry into the Operation of the National Lottery, I am writing to you with regard to how the National Lottery has affected Population Concern, a beneficiary of three grants from the National Lottery's Charity Board.


  1.1  Population Concern is an international charity organisation working to promote awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as the availability and accessibility of sexual and reproductive health services. We believe in the United Nations Human Right that every person has the right to this type of information and access to quality health services.

  1.2  We have increasing interest and experience in addressing the specific needs of young people. We work in partnership with local organisations across the developing world. Our aim in this collaborative process is to provide both financial and technical assistance to our overseas partners. The ultimate goal is to help build their operational capacity over the years through a process that involves community participation in project planning, implementation and evaluation. Currently, we work in sixteen countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.


  2.1  The impact of the National Lottery on charities has been particularly significant. The concept of buying a Lottery ticket to become a millionaire with the opportunity to help good causes at the same time has proved to be very helpful for charities such as ours, who had never achieved the status of a "cuddly" cause. As a result of not achieving this status, we had always been largely excluded from the types of fundraising which involve the collection of "change" from the public, in exercises such as street collections. We know from our colleagues in the field who did benefit from this style of fundraising, that this has all but dried up as a result of the Lottery, as all spare pounds now find their way into the Lottery retailers tills.

  2.2  The National Lottery has assisted our cause in two main ways. Primarily (and obviously) through financial donations, of which we have received three and are awaiting the decision on our fourth application. Secondly, it has helped through prestige and helping to change public perception of our area of work, simply through being supportive. Population Concern has always struggled with the perception of reproductive health in the face of the general public and their connections. Sex has always been a good seller of products, but the consequences of it, are widely ignored as a worthwhile cause despite the human rights implications. Our more recent focus on the more urgent reproductive health needs of young people, has caused this to become even more pronounced. We are not a charity which many people can relate to conventionally, because the problems which we work to eradicate are simply not seen in the UK and are therefore quite removed from people's personal lives.

  2.3  Our biggest problem is not just the apathy of the general public themselves, but the big giving institutions on which they impact—companies being the best example. Despite years of solid work in trying to attract income from companies with significant marketing offers—not just begging letters, we have achieved only small donations from companies whose own image is not rated in the public domain. Other development agencies who are able to present more "cuddly" images of poverty reduction such as credit unions, other health services, agricultural projects etc receive millions from these institutions. We have also received repeated rejections from health giants (including manufacturers of the pill, and sanitary protection products!), as well as well known "giant" corporate philanthropists.

  2.4  The National Lottery's support of our work, as a respected donor, has brought a renewed profile to sexual and reproductive health and has assisted in bringing these issues further into the mainstream, thus presenting us with a new chance to educate charitable trusts and corporations once again on the importance of these issues. The projects which the Lottery's Charity Board has supported were also particularly difficult to fundraise for as they contained a heavy emphasis on young people in particularly marginalised situations, such as living on the street, in slum areas or in areas where the adult community was particularly unsympathetic to the needs of its youth through overt religious belief, despite the fact that the situation was causing adverse consequences in the whole community. These projects have actually allowed us to help change not only the circumstances of these vulnerable young people, but often the very community environment in which they live. These are programmes which other donors had shied away from due to their innovative and unconventional approach.

  2.5  Without the support of a key donor like the Lottery's Board, there is a strong chance in the future that charities will simply have to abandon the "cause" of young people—which would be a huge travesty of justice for the next generation, which is rapidly becoming known as the AIDS generation. The National Lottery's financial support and forward thinking support for our work is invaluable, both to Population Concern as an organisation, but more importantly, to the millions of men, women, adolescents and children whom we are trying to reach.


  3.1  We have found that the operation of the National Lottery Distribution Fund is excellent in our experience. The staff have been extremely supportive, efficient and helpful, and the administrative back-up in terms of payment of grants, to be very sound. Despite encountering a few problems with one of our grants, the staff have remained flexible and supportive in their approach, allowing us to make decisions accordingly.

  3.2  Our recommendation to the Committee would be that this team stays in place whichever Lottery operator is eventually decided upon.

  3.3  It is however widely believed, that on occasion staffing levels seem to be slightly below optimum causing the International Grant Officers to be significantly stretched with work. As their input is so vital to the process and with the expanding responsibility of projects and new causes which must be assessed annually, we would recommend that this Committee would encourage further input of resources—both human and financial.

  3.4  Overall, our experience is that the Distribution Fund has managed to overcome much of the red tape, which makes other large donors slow to respond and inefficient. This has allowed the fund to be a truly responsive and forward thinking donor, keen to serve all the key areas of societies needs.


  4.1  The Distribution Fund is an important source of income for us, for all the reasons we have described above. Naturally we would be very supportive if even more money was to be released to the fund.


  5.1  Adequate turnover of causes already occurs through the Lottery Board's excellent appraisal system. Every year, proposals are submitted to the Lottery Committee and after assessment they decide who will be given funding. If they believe that a proposal is weak, then this is the time that it will be decided. Therefore, in effect, the existing good causes are reviewed on an annual basis and we do not believe it would be beneficial on a more general basis.

  5.2  There is another important factor which makes the Lottery stand out as a donor. The one "application per organisation" rule is one that we would wish to champion and appeal to the Committee to leave in place. Our experience across other sectors of donors, is that the larger charities, who are maybe not as efficient as the smaller organisations at making their financial resources stretch, tend to get the lions share of the funds—simply because they have a strong brand identity and are seen as a "safe" investment. Evidence would show from the Board's decisions so far, that in many cases smaller organisations have submitted better proposals and have consequently gained a higher level of funding than the more blue chip charities who tend to have huge success amongst the more traditional donors.

  5.3  One aspect of the distribution of funds which we would wish to influence is the huge imbalance in levels of funds given to UK causes against overseas causes. Whilst we are not invalidating the needs for charitable contributions to be distributed within the UK, most of the current portfolio of donor organisations including companies and charitable trusts are more than willing to support "local" work already. The key area for investment is in fact overseas, where poverty and ill health clearly reach proportions that people in the UK will never experience. We live in a multi-cultural society in the UK, which must surely challenge the old arguments about "charity beginning at home". These points must become somewhat muted in the face of the plight of the immediate families and communities of British people living in developing countries.

August 2000

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