The term charity is 'unhelpful', British Red Cross chief executive says

14 Oct 2016 News

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross

The voluntary sector should distance itself from the word charity because it is “unhelpful”, the chief executive of the British Red Cross said earlier this week. 

“I think the word charity is very unhelpful, actually,” he said. “I think we have a problem with terminology. The problem is that when the Daily Mail attacks it uses the word charity, but the future is about values-led organisations, both small and large."

Mike Adamson was speaking at the NPC Ignites conference in London on Wednesday.

Adamson suggested that the problem with the word charity was that it caused people to focus on organisational structures whereas the real question was about how lives could be improved for beneficiaries.

He said the sector needed to focus much more on measuring whether it was making an effective difference, and that he hoped to change the processes of measurement inside the British Red Cross to make that easier to do.

"We’re reshaping the organisation to be organised around the needs of people in crisis. So rather than a higgildy-piggedly flow of information, we can have much clearer lines of sight right the way from our beneficiaries through to the board - about what they’re interested in and how we’re helping them with those concerns. 

"We are also moving beyond a rather superficial approach to understanding evidence and insight, to really investing in building an evidence base for each other areas in which we want to be a go-to organisation and then turning that into impact reporting. We will then use both for improving and learning - stretching our services - but also so that we can speak truth to power". 

Adamson’s words were echoed also by Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the British Asian Trust, who said that the sector needs to “move away from the concept of charity” entirely. 

“We should be about change, not charity,” he said. “We’ve got be about changing things and making things better, about adding value, innovating, building success on those innovations, advocating for change and then changing the world accordingly.”


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