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About this guide

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In recent years, charities have faced questions over the way they operate. Executive pay, fundraising methods and governance all been scrutinised. This has created a renewed public discourse about how charities operate as institutions, rather than on what they achieve.

This is understandable, given both the recent events that have exposed weaknesses in some charities, and the ever-growing scale and influence of the sector. As significant institutions in society, it’s right that charities are scrutinised.

It’s important that charities do all they can to maintain their good reputations, in order to sustain public trust and be able to continue their work. Charities should and have been dealing with the roots of these problems where they exist. But as well as working to ever higher standards in their governance and operations, charities also need to be able to tell the positive story about themselves as effectively as possible.

We worked with a research agency, BritainThinks, to draw out key themes in how charities work that appeal to the public and find out how to present them most positively.

We also tested reactive messages on some of the questions asked of charities in areas such as governance, transparency and fundraising. The aim of the research was to see what messaging was most effective in allaying people’s concerns. We’ve presented the findings in this guide.

It’s worth underlining that actions speak louder than words and the advice in this guide is intended to be complementary to taking clear steps to address issues the public are concerned about, not an alternative to doing so. Communications alone are not enough – we need to ‘show, not tell’ the public that we take their concerns seriously.

Charity communicators have a really important role to play here in helping their organisations understand the wider environment and the importance of meeting public expectations. We hope you find the guide useful and that it helps you think about how to present your charity’s work most positively and deal with questions about how you work.

Page last edited Sep 11, 2017

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