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charitable status and units -are they really?
#1
There are several archaeological units in the UK which have charitable status, often as an educational trust, however much of what we see of these 'charities' is in purely commercial archaeology, some of them being quite aggressively expansionist, working well out of their original geographic remit, and gobbling up smaller units. The educational side doesn't seem that visible to me, what percentage of say the big two's turnover is educational? What proportion of their staff? And what are the rules about this?

Its something I've often wondered about, but never got any definitive answers, I haven't worked for either of the two biggest such units (and have no intention of doing so), but nearly worked for another, smaller player. With that unit they did indeed seem to do a huge amount of education work and ran centers etc, to the extent that there were more employees in the educational side than the digging side, but with the other big two I don't ever seem to hear of much beyond employing students and weblogs. Is this a fair representation? Why don't I hear of all the educational work? Is this situation fair within an open competitive market? What tax advantages do they get (if any), does it work to the good of the staff?

If anyone has any first hand experience I'd be really interested in their views, historical context would be interesting and useful for many as well, obviously without naming and shaming, or the reverse
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#2
Have posted on this in other threads - the potential for abuse in these sort of systems. ~The welsh trust system being of particular note
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#3
As understand it, when I worked for one of the big units which is a charity, it's a matter of history. Back before the tendering system was put in place, most non-council units were trusts and therefore eligible for charity status, as they didn't make a profit, and were run by trusts and a board of trustees. Basically, all the assets of the units which have charitable/trust status effictively belong to the trust, not the actual unit. if they were to forgo or lose their charitable status, they would effectively lose all their assets ie all the equipment, the buildings etc, and would cease to exist. Thus the only way to stop being a charity/trust would be to go out of business, then get a huge loan to buy all 'their' assets off the trust. I beleieve the big units which are charities still don't make a profit as such - any profit they do make belongs to the trust, as a 'surplus'. Unless things have changed in the last ten years?

"Whoever understands the pottery, understands the site" - Wheeler
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#4
Might I be the first (and hopefully not the last) to express my uneasiness as to where this thread might lead or be leading.

Any organisation registered as a charity submits an annual return and financial statement to the Charity Commissioners who publish the summary results on their web site. The CC have the power to investigate abuses of charitable status. If anyone has reason to believe that a charity of any kind is abusing its charitable status they should contact the Charity Commissioners. I don't think it is fair (and perhaps even libellous) to conduct such an enquiry on a website, (not least because of the potential to embarrass BAJR which none of us want to do. Do we)


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#5
Interesting point re assets. Given that at the moment there is one 'charitable organisation' that is trying to get rid of its (very major) archaeological contracting unit, I wonder how that affects things with them if they were to be able to cut free?

The surplus rather than profit thing appears to still be true, in an ideal world this means all surplus gets ploughed back in to equipment, premises and wages (probably in that order), but in reality it doesn't always work like that, especially when there is a parent organisation that takes the surplus, or losses are made in lean years.

I am aware of the historical reasons (although thanks for stating them as many probably aren't aware), but I'd still be interested in what people think of how these charities operate. I suppose one of my biggest concerns is if they gain advantage over other units, and how come they are allowed to work outside of their remit area, and the fact that at least two of them don't seem to do any significant educational work above and beyond site tours. Just why are two of the most expansionist units in the UK still charities?
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#6
Quote:quote:Originally posted by kevin wooldridge

Might I be the first (and hopefully not the last) to express my uneasiness as to where this thread might lead or be leading.

sorry kevin, was writing reply whilst you posted.

I'm not trying to conduct an 'inquiry', I'm just trying to find out some information, without ploughing through charity commissioners' reports. It's because I haven't heard a great deal about what these units do, with the exception of the one I said did a great deal, and I'm interested in finding out. I specifically didn't mention any names, and asked replies to do the same. If you think this topic is out of order, then delete it, but I think it should be possible to ask questions.

If you turn the question around it becomes, would UK archaeology be in a better place if the existing system was replaced by regional/county/city units which were charitable trusts that also undertook educational activities and invested surplus for the good of their unit and employees?
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#7
I don't think that charities and commercialism are mutually exclusive. The last time I was in the UK for example it seemed that most high streets housed one or more charity 'shops'. I guess you could say (just to take one example) that Oxfam's charitable purpose is not primarilly to sell clothes or books, but as a commerical activity that provides the basis for its wider work. Why should charities with an archaeological basis be any different.

I have no problem with this debate (taking into account my previously expressed suggestion regarding potential embarrassment to David and BAJR) and hope that it can address the principals rather than suggest any or many archaeolgical undertakings are in breach of their charitable status. I just thought Bob that your first mail went quite close to identifying individual archaeological enterprises.
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#8
Having already posted on this I'm not sure I can be arsed to go over it all again... however, what struck me is that the situation at present is a bit unbalanced because of the varying ways in which organisations are, erm, organised, and it is difficult to compare one with another.

Certainly some charitable archaeological organisations seem almost wholly commercial in outlook and emphasis, and the comparison with other charities doesn't seem to make sense. I don't think for example that anyone has much doubt what Oxfam does and what its shops are for but I'm not sure many people outside of charitable archaeological organisations (or even inside) could exaplain the difference between what they do and what an entirely commercial archaeological company does. Also, I can't imagine charity shops taking over other shops (charity or otherwise). The difference could also perhaps be summed up like this - if Oxfam, for example, spent 90% of its time generating income, the majority of which was used paying the people who made that income, and then gave thruppence ha'penny to poor starving people, they wouldn't be very good as a charity. What's the difference between a not for profit archaeological company (although most could probably have that added to the front of their names!) and a charity that doesn't make any surplus?

The over all point is that no-one really has the time or understanding to sit down and work out how all these things, erm, work... perhaps the IFA could do it instead of profiling the profession.
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#9
Quote:quote:Originally posted by RedEarth

Also, I can't imagine charity shops taking over other shops (charity or otherwise). The difference could also perhaps be summed up like this - if Oxfam, for example, spent 90% of its time generating income, the majority of which was used paying the people who made that income, and then gave thruppence ha'penny to poor starving people, they wouldn't be very good as a charity.


Well there are precedents for charities taking over other charities or merging. And there is even recent legislation (2006) that specifically addresses the matter of charities merging (see press release below)
http://www.charitytimes.com/pages/ct_fea...umbers.htm

As for the parallel with a charity paying staff to make income I don't see that as valid. Surely an archaeological charity that pays 90% of its income to staff carrying out the function of the charity i.e archaeology, is actually being efficient, rather than wasteful.
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#10
kevin, point taken. I've tried to edit the original post to make it more general, but the system won't let me.

I get your point that if a charity's remit is 'archaeology' then its totally appropriate for it to spend most of its funds on, essentially, itself. The thing is a lot of the archaeological charities are 'educational', but as diggers etc we don't get to see a lot of this in practice. Certainly most units don't seem to invest a lot of energy in 'educating' i.e. training, their staff!

It turns out that I have worked for one of these charities, without actually realising it! That says something, no?
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