Can I Have Two Minutes of Your Time to Read This?

Racepoint Global

2015. That was the year charity saw its reputation dragged through the mud in the public eye; the result of a single tragic tale. The story published across the media was the very definition of a ‘pitchfork print’, those stories that you can’t help but be swept up by, the ones that seem to unite everyone regardless of demographic or political persuasion, the ones that often seem to be proof for those hunches and feelings that exist in society. The story was that of an old woman whose kindness led her to be sent hundreds of charity requests, eventually culminating in her taking her own life due to the pressure she felt to respond to every one. It did not matter that her own family refuted the stories in the press, claiming that it was a result of far wider reaching mental health problems, and that the charities were not the sole cause. What mattered was that many people wanted to believe it was entirely because of the charities.

People wanted to believe it was the charities because for many years people have felt an aversion to some of the tactics being used. I will hold my own hands up and admit that I have little time for those suited baby-faced charmers that stalk the local shopping centre, coming across like a combination of a rejected contestant from The Apprentice and a credit card that’s come magically to life. This ‘problem with the donor experience’ was the theme for a recent PRCA evening which featured the Commission on the donor experience director Richard Spencer; Copper director and commission lead on “speaking out” across the media Tim Kitchen and former government minister Rt Hon Professor Paul Burstow talking about how more needs to be done to improve the way charities conveyed themselves to the public.

One of the key issues was that of language and how it was used internally and externally. Richard Spencer stated that a number of industry wide initiatives had been launched to ensure that sales-centric words and phrases had been driven out. The other big issue was that of the wider experience for the donor. Many people feel uncomfortable donating as they have no idea where the money is going. This was one area in which the role of communications was touted as especially important, owing to the need for the journey of the donation to be brought out and conveyed successfully to the public through the press.

For the charity and non-profit sectors to flourish, it is not going to be the result of one successful social campaign, it will be through a well thought-out and well executed long-term conversation both within their own industries and the wider world. A sustained collaborative effort from charities, government and the communications industry is essential for this to happen.