Reputation meltdown - how should Charities respond?

10 February 2016

The momentum of anti charity press coverage is building, with Age Concern and Friends of the Earth now worthy of front page attention. The standard approach of individual charities up until recently has been to be open and wait until the frenzy blows over. But this momentum is not about one charity, it is about an entire sector.

Some may see a degree of conspiracy behind the attacks, especially regarding the gagging order imposed on charities carrying out government contracts. Whether the government has prompted the change in approach or has just taken advantage of it, the reality is that charities are not operating in a benign environment and can no longer take public support for granted.

So what can be done to adapt to the new reality?

  • The PR situation is not necessarily lost and it was ironic in December to see newspapers attacking charities on their front pages whi8le publicising their Christmas appeals elsewhere.  Better communication of the achievements of charities will help maintain a good reputation.  This means good PR and resources spent on annual reports that present the facts and the numbers.
  • Charities have a great message to get across at all levels, including the pay of their chief executive.  It is likely that she is receiving significantly less than her equivalents in the private or public sector so it is well worth making the point.
  • The change in the level of public support is likely to be reflected in reduced returns from public fundraising which will make some approaches uneconomic.  Again charities have a good story to tell about how they communicate with people that may wish to support their cause.  The papers may be full of alleged bad practice following the Olive Cooke affair but individual charities have reconnected more strongly with their supporters as a result of their response to the issue.