Charity Begins At Home

The charity sector hasn’t been having an easy time of it of late. Already battered and bruised from the funding constraints occasioned by the recession, the way in which some fundraising campaigns are run has brought into question the ethics of the sector.

Unfortunately, tactics such as passing confidential donor information to 3rd parties and pressurising existing contributors into making repeated payments, may have been confined to the few but they have drawn the entire sector into disrepute. So much so that the question of charity fundraising has become the subject of a Parliamentary enquiry as well as engendering multiple headlines in the press.

Appearing before Parliament's public administration and constitutional affairs select committee at the beginning of November, Sir Stuart Etherington revealed that two tough new clauses relating to fundraising were to be added to the Charities Bill which is currently going through Parliament.  Sir Stuart, who is head of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), said that not only would these new regulations force larger charities to sign up with a new fundraising regulatory body, they would also give Parliament the power to introduce statutory regulation should the proposed voluntary arrangements fail to curb current excesses.

Regardless of whether measures to regulate charity fundraising are statutory or voluntary, the charity sector does have to take action in order to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the public. As Sir Stuart Etherington commented to the committee we need a “restoration of the values upon which charity is based.” By coincidence, a similar message came out the same week from Andrew Hind, Chair of the Fundraising Standards Board. Speaking to the Association of Charitable Foundation’s annual conference he urged foundations to do more to build and buttress the image of the charity sector.

At heart, the message is a simple one; charities may have been set up to raise awareness or to improve a particular aspect of life, but they now have to raise their level of professionalism and business acumen in order to prove to people that they can operate to a high ethical standard. The fact is that charities raise millions of pounds every year for good causes and people are in general happy to support them in their aims. But contributors will only carry on giving if they believe that the charity is well run and providing good value.

So what can charities do to meet the new imperative? In all honesty, the vast majority of them are already providing the level of service which the public expects but there are a few simple areas in which actions can help to boost brand image. Firstly, take the time to make sure that your people are all fully on board with the aims and objectives of the charity. When a charity reaches a certain size it may well have a mixture of employees and volunteers who are drawn from a range of backgrounds. Spending a little time on a regular basis in ensuring that each of these individuals is doing their best through their actions and attitudes to promote the charity will help to boost its image.

Secondly, we now live in a social media world and those charities which are able to reach out to their potential contributors through news and social media postings can improve their image through their interactions. Facebook, Twitter, local discussion forums; social media can help to spread the message without giving the feeling that you are invasively targeting individuals.

But however you spread the message, it is important to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you. Simple steps such as adopting an 0300 charity number may help with image and contact ability. 0300 numbers are reserved for charities and non-profit making organisations, are charged at a local rate, and generally free as part of a minutes package even from mobiles. In recognition of the vital role which charities play in society, Callagenix offers a special package for charities which can include access to 0300 numbers, reduced call charges and a discount off regular service costs.

There are 163,000 registered charities in England and Wales and it is a shame that a few of them have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. But large or small, charities play a vital role in the life of the UK and we are happy to play our part in supporting them. 

Written by alison