When you hear the word “charity”, what comes to mind? Do you think of kind, passionate people helping the less fortunate, giving money or time to a worthy cause? Perhaps your first thought is of Children in Need, pictures of starving children, and such like. Sadly, today we are just as likely to think about negative connotations associated with charities that hurt and knock confidence and trust in the charity sector among potential and current donors.
The cringeworthy and deplorable latest wrongdoings within the charity sector once again make us all uncomfortable and leave a bad taste. Hot on the heels of the vexed issue of sexism, charities splashing out too much on wages and advertising, concerns about fundraising tactics, and the inedible closure of Kids Company and Lifeline, we now have the nauseating Oxfam scandal that harms our fantastic sector once again and leaves many well-intentioned donors perhaps feeling duped and cheated.
There remains high regard for the majority of charities, but as another scandal hits the front pages, the danger of alienating those who give to charities is becoming a reality and it is no wonder charities are losing people’s trust. There is often widespread anger when charities do the wrong thing, and rightly so. Unfortunately, this sector isn’t immune from poor practice, criminality and immoral behaviour.
We may have some way to go and work to do before we make sense of the current messy charitable landscape. However, the incredible and often unheralded work of most charities far outweighs the faults of a few. We have to instil confidence for potential and current donors, and there are steps that can be taken to ensure donations go to the right place and are spent wisely and effectively.
Charities themselves need to up their game and get smarter at being truly open and transparent. We have to almost regain the confidence of the public and donors, and charities could be more less circumspect about how they portray their financial activities.
Not all charities are transparent with their financial data, thus putting the onus on donors to do their own research. When we book a holiday or are looking at buying a new TV, we do research. Frustratingly you then hear that others on the same holiday paid a lot less and someone tells you could have got that TV much cheaper elsewhere. We probably get annoyed with ourselves as we have wasted money.
When it comes to giving money to charities, how can you be sure your money is not being wasted? Like the purchase of the TV, it will pay to do some of your own research, and charities should make this as simple as possible.
For donors who are thinking of giving to a charity, the Charity Commission’s website details every charity’s financial report and explanatory notes. This can be a little opaque, and many annual reports are not as strong and clear as they could be. The public and potential donors should have the right to know how charities manage and spend their money. At Iceni, we believe every charity should as a matter of course provide financial information in an easy, open and accessible manner.
For starters, every charity should have to clearly state in all literature, both online and offline, how much they spend on administration and fundraising, how much goes into reserves and how much is paid to senior staff. Not to mention how much income comes from government and local authorities. In addition, every charity should make it explicitly clear how they manage “safeguarding” within their organisation and demonstrate that all people involved are DBS-checked.
These are just a small example of the simple things that charities can do to start gaining the confidence and trust of donors. Given they are often crucial to a charity’s very existence, it’s important to give donors every reason to keep donating.