Reporting in charities: the views of the ‘People’s Panel’
26 September 2018
It should go without saying that any discussion about public trust needs to put the views of the public front and centre. The judging process for the Building Public Trust Award for Reporting in Charities sought public opinion through a ‘People’s Panel’, consisting of members of the general public who broadly reflect the UK population. The panel explored the role of charities and the challenges they’re facing, and, more specifically, how charities can build trust and confidence through their reporting.
On the whole, the panel believed charities are an important force for good in society, with a positive impact through supporting people or the environment, or raising awareness of particular issues.
“I’ve cancer and the charities that have been involved left me speechless. I have the greatest respect.”
However, they also understood that charities currently face an unprecedented level of pressure and scrutiny. Charities are fundraising in a crowded landscape, needing to reassure stakeholders that they are spending funds effectively and responding to recent “high profile scandals” in the media.
“The world would be in a terrible state if it weren’t for charities. 99% are fantastic but I’ve spoken to colleagues and people do think twice now about donating.”
Some members of the public felt it was important not to treat all charities the same, although they also believe that increased scrutiny of how charities operate is “no bad thing”. The reality is that “people do think twice now about donating”, which is consistent with our view that charities need to rise above the ‘plateau’.
“There has been some extraordinarily bad coverage. It’s big news. It’s world news. That is strong stuff. But the dealings I’ve had, I’ve been in awe of what charities have done.”
In terms of charity reporting, the People’s Panel were particularly interested in five areas:
- Does the charity have an easy to understand and engaging story and make minimal use of technical ‘jargon’?
- Does the charity set out clear objectives and provide evidence of its progress against these?
- Does the charity show how, as well as how much, money has been raised and spent, and whether this aligns with their objectives?
- Does the charity explain its organisational structure, including how it is governed as well as provide information about its executive team and workforce, including volunteers?
- Does the charity demonstrate openness and honesty, through highlighting key challenges and how it plans to address these going forward?
Ultimately, the panel were looking for reporting which was engaging and transparent, so that they could clearly understand what the charity does, who the beneficiaries are, why what they do is important and the impact they have made.
The views of the ‘People’s Panel’ were fed into the judging process for the Building Public Trust Award for Reporting in Charities. The winner will be announced on 4 October 2018. For more information, visit the website.