If you go by media reports then 2018 has been tough for charities. We’ve had the Oxfam, Save the Children and President’s Club scandals that, if you believe reports, have rocked the sector.
On top of this, the new chair of the Charity Commission – Baroness Stowell – has said that: “People now trust charities no more than they trust the average stranger they meet on the street.”
Add to this previous headlines that have dogged the third sector over the last three years or so. Think Kids Company and Olive Cook.
It’s easy to see why charities we have spoken to over the last few months have used phrases like:
“The charity sector has had a kicking.”
“There has been a shockwave through the sector.”
“Good will factor (amongst the public) is diminishing.”
We picked up these phrases, and others like it, when we were speaking to charity clients, charity contacts and charity friends as I prepared to speak at four PKF Francis Clark charity conferences that were being held across the South in May 2018 – Buckfast Abbey in Devon; Monk’s Yard in Somerset; Bovington Tank Museum in Dorset; and Epiphany House in Cornwall.
The events, aimed at charity staff, management and trustees, were focused around the topic of ‘building a sustainable charity’ and I was asked to speak on communications and key messages.
There were positives coming from our conversations with our charity contacts, such as they’d improved governance on the back of the Kids Company, Olive Cook, Oxfam and Save the Children headlines, and that databases and compliance had been improved in the build up to GDPR.
However, there was a sense coming from these conversations that external pressures, such as the media headlines, were really impacting on the sector internally. Perhaps in more of a moral sense though.
So, before standing up in front of over 250 people across the four events, we thought we’d see what the views of the public were and if there was an correlation, or even difference, that could bring some relief to those working in the third sector front line.
We created eight simple Twitter poll questions, with four choices for each one. The poll was distributed by our sister agency, Ninety-five, which has in excess of 23,000 followers on the social media platform.
For us, the findings were really positive and showed that the vast majority of the public we surveyed still had faith in charities and the work that is done.
There is also a sense that there is an opportunity for local charities to build connections with their own communities and distance themselves from the national charities that have been making headlines for the wrong reason.
As one delegate said after one of the events: “The polls show that there seems to be a disconnect between what the public think and what the new head of the Charity Commission thinks.”
There is still a lot of work to do, however, there is goodwill there and if the charities get the messaging, offering and channels right, then it can make a huge difference to achieving more engagement, more supporters, more donations and more positive impact.
The main thing to remember though, is why you are here and then tell that story to the right audience using the right medium.
For more help on developing these key messages, finding the right audience and using the right channels then get in touch with us today.