Understanding Charities Group launched

A cross-sector alliance of charities has formally launched the Understanding Charities Group, aimed at improving public trust and confidence in charities.

The group has also outlined four strands of work which will improve understanding of how charities work, improve the public’s trust, empathy and engagement with charities, and increase positive media coverage of the sector and better tackle the negative.

The initiative was created by CharityComms, NCVO and other groups and individuals, in response to concerns that the high levels of trust enjoyed by the sector could be at risk due to a lack of understanding of modern charities and how they operate.

The group was launched in reaction to increased scrutiny and questioning, in the media and from MPs, of charities' right to campaign, levels of chief executive pay, fundraising methods and administration costs.

The group’s steering committee includes Vicky Browning, director of the membership body CharityComms; Alan Gosschalk, director of fundraising at Scope; Joe Saxton, founder of nfpSynergy, and Karl Wilding, director of public policy at NCVO, as well as 11 communications professionals from charities and bodies including the Charity Commission.

It met for the first time in October to agree its four stands of work, which include:

  • Creating a positive, proactive narrative to explain how modern charities work and why they operate the way they do;
  • Engaging with charities and creating ways for them to engage with their audiences;
  • Gaining more generic media coverage for charities, while at the same time creating a media rebuttal protocol to help charities respond to coverage about issues such as staff salaries, fundraising methods, admin costs and government contracts; and
  • Researching and understanding the public, testing ideas and narratives, and measuring success.

The group states it will assess media scrutiny, including the level of coverage of different stories have received, and measure the impact of the initiative and is hoping to develop a better system for responding to media scandals within the next six months and a better general media profile for charities within a couple of years. But it is likely to take around ten years to make substantive changes to public attitudes.

A general meeting, open to all interested parties is being held on 23 January at NCVO in London. For further information email vicky@charitycomms.org.uk.