Did you know there are 12,500 registered charities in Ireland and they employ 100,000 people? With 50,000 volunteers assisting them. The sector is worth €5.7 billion annually. Charity is big business!
However, recent scandals have highlighted three key areas charities need to concentrate and focus their attention.
1. Trust for Charity Organisations
Charities operate in an environment of trust because people believe that they will deliver per donor-public expectation. However, people get angry and feel cheated if they do not. Charities need trust to fund raise. They need it from especially the donors and lately, we have seen multiple examples of how charities have abused this trust. We’ve seen charities with staff unsure about what medication to give people. Charities that spent money on 5-star hotels and those where CEOs earned in excess of €200,000! I have no problem with anyone earning good or great money – my problem is when they do so in the charity sector.
Also, charities need the trust of celebrities who bring attention to their good works, attract media, and encourage donors to give because they like and trust the celebrities.
Charities understand the need to communicate to raise funds. They select very good images and stories which will appeal to people and encourage donations. However, charities have not yet understood that they need to invest in communications. This investment will earn them a trust and a good reputation. Without these two, any charity is doomed.
The charity excuse for not investing in communication is that people do not donate for that reason. Well let us briefly examine that statement:
Good corporate governance costs money. But it ensures that we know that the money we donate is properly spent. Also, it ensures that Gardai have vetted people working with children. Furthermore, it ensures that there are procedures in place to prevent abuse of people with mental or physical disabilities etc. No one would object to a limited amount of money these good practices will cost to be establish. But they cannot be secret. Charities also have to spend a limited amount of money telling us what they are doing in these areas. They need to get serious about developing communications skills for themselves. Their spokespersons need to keep donors in the loop on their activities.
Charities need to concentrate on their reputation and this takes a lifetime to build but takes minutes to lose. The professional organisations representing the charity sector need to start speaking out about the ‘bad apples’ and that requires backbone. If you do not publicly dissociate yourself from the baddies then how will donors know that your charity is a good one?
We have all seen the damage done by society’s loss of faith in groups like teachers, priests, guards and banks. Charities should learn from the mistakes of others and start communicating NOW!
I talk more about Charities and Reputations in times of Crisis:
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Director, Irish Academy of Public RelationsSee More