Charities must ‘earn the right to be heard’ says Commission chair

25 Oct 2018 News

Baroness Tina Stowell, chair of the Charity Commission

Charities must earn the right to be heard on issues such as chief executive pay, by listening to the public and understanding and addressing their concerns, the chair of the Charity Commission said yesterday.

Baroness Stowell was speaking at a symposium held by UK Community Foundations yesterday on the "power of place".

In response to a question about whether the Charity Commission should “myth-bust” more strongly on issues such as chief executive pay, she reiterated previous comments that when the public perceive something to be wrong, that is a sign that something is actually wrong with charities.

“Important to understand that people’s belief in so-called myths is a sign that something is wrong with charity sector - not wrong with the people themselves,” she tweeted after the event. “First step to success is ‘earning the right’ to be heard, by showing we understand and addressing why the myth exists.”

Stowell’s speech reiterated a view that charities are not reaching their potential because they are not meeting public expectations, and that is because they are not listening to what the public expect.

“Too often, charity leaders think of public trust in terms of a PR exercise,” she said. “If we tell the public enough about how great we are, they’ll trust us, and if they don’t trust us, it’s because the public don’t get us – and so we need to talk more.

“I believe that those in positions of power – and that absolutely includes you in this room – have a crucial responsibility to listen to people and to act on what you hear.”

She suggested that the problem was that charities engage in “uncharitable behaviour”.

“I’m not just talking about the big scandals in big charities here,” she said. “This is not just about exploitation and abuse in aid organisations, or unethical behaviour by those involved in large scale fundraising.

“All charities, including those operating at the micro level, have a responsibility to uphold the concept of charity and demonstrate the behaviour that people associate with charity.”

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