Representatives from 50 of the UK’s largest charities met yesterday to discuss how to improve the public reputation of the charity sector, following a series of critical articles in the media.
The event was hosted at the Society Building in London by infrastructure bodies Acevo and NCVO, and is the latest in a series of steps being jointly taken by the two bodies to improve communications about the charity sector as a whole.
Following the meeting, the two charities will discuss a plan for a positive campaign to improve the sector’s reputation.
NCVO said the purpose of the meeting was to “discuss how we can reassure the public, our supporters and donors, that we are taking any and all criticisms seriously and think about what else we can do to demonstrate accountability and transparency”.
Charities have repeatedly been criticised on the front pages of national newspapers over the last three years for a series of different reasons. In addition to articles about poor fundraising practice and the collapse of Kids Company, stories have also featured chief executive pay, inefficiency, unethical investment practices, and campaigning. Individual charities facing criticism have included the RSPCA, Friends of the Earth, Age UK, Help for Heroes and NSPCC.
Yesterday the Daily Telegraph was forced to make substantial amendments to a front page story which said charities did not spend enough on “good works”, and to publish a clarification admitting the data it had used was not representative of charities’ true financial position.
Chloe Stables, Parliamentary and media manager at NCVO, told Civil Society News that there was a push to create a united response to explain how charities operated, provide a defence to specific criticism, and create more positive stories about the sector.
She said many charities still questioned how much the reputation of the sector was actually under threat.
“We need to revisit our analysis of the problem and understand how we try to solve it,” she said. “There are very different perceptions in the charity sector about how much of a problem this is in the real world. So we need to agree some kind of consensus.”
She said that any response would need a level of funding, and that charities needed to discuss was who should direct a response and who should pay for it.