Karl Wilding, Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations), was invited by the Association of Chairs to speak about public trust and confidence in charities. Angela Davies from Nova attended the session.
The Association of Chairs invited Karl Wilding, Public Policy and Volunteering at NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) to speak about public trust and confidence in charities. Nova attended this interesting session on 10 February 2017, hosted by Certa in Wakefield and this blog is to share some of the ideas and thoughts that it raised.
Over the past 20 years the voluntary sector has increasingly found it is under intense media scrutiny. Stories in the media – especially The Daily Mail - often portray an unflattering picture of how charities operate.
Why is this happening? One reason is the rise of digital media making data more accessible and, armed with information to analyse. it’s easier than ever for the media to create stories and scrutinise.
With headlines ranging from: the level of executive pay; poor governance (think Kids Company); allegations of “cold-calling” vulnerable people (think Olive Cooke); and questionable relationships with commercial organisations (think AgeUK). These accusations are focused on larger charities but the messages affect the perception of the whole sector. The majority of charities are very small operating with tiny budgets (<£10+) and are very efficient.
The issues raised in the press can’t be ignored. Karl liked the action needed to capping an oil well, it is important for the sector not to ignore the oil spill around the issues that repeatedly come up about:
- Executive pay and
- Poor governance
A YouGov poll shared by Karl revealed that the majority of the public said they feel the accusations made by the press about charities are fair. So what can be done to change perceptions?
Tell the story
Charities need to hold their hands up if things have gone wrong but also to tell their positive stories. The sector needs to ensure there’s information about the impact they have and the difference they make to local people. Charities do lots of positive work and the world is changed by charity.
Unlike other industries the voluntary sector does not have a single regulator, over sight comes from many places. The Charity Commission supports and registers charities as a non-Ministerial Government department. Organisations such as NCVO and ACEVO have a role to play in ensuring the voice of the sector is heard, but there is no single voice or authority. Public benefit is at the heart of all charities, so being clear about the public benefit is one place to begin.
In 2016 NCVO launched the How Charities Work website, a resource to explain in simple terms what role charities play and how they operate. With charities being increasingly business like in their approach and delivery, it’s a way of explaining what the sector looks like. While the public connect volunteering and volunteers to charities, a common misunderstanding being that charities are run by volunteers, the link to social enterprise and delivering contracts is not widely in the public awareness but is something that many charities are involved in.
Another NCVO initiative is Constructive Voices which aims to champion constructive journalism, by linking up journalists with charities, social entrepreneurs and other initiatives and helping them work together on constructive news articles covering pressing social issues.
Nova champions the voluntary sector in Wakefield District, so if your organisation has a story to share about the impact you are having locally do let us know.