Celebrating openness in reporting by charities
05 October 2018
At a time where charities are facing challenges from significant media scrutiny and a ‘plateau’ in public trust, the role of reporting is more important than ever. As we mark the fifth year of our Building Public Trust Award for Reporting in Charities, there is much to celebrate in terms of the greater focus on high quality reporting, but it is also clear that some charities continue to struggle to tell their story, about who they are, what they do, why their work is important and the impact they have.
The winner of our 2018 award was the Canal & River Trust, who used their reporting to paint a picture around how the charity is developing, supported by powerful case studies. The Canal & River Trust has also referenced their First Outcomes Report as part of a substantial exercise of “Building an Evidence Base” in relation to the broad social, economic and environmental impact that the waterway network has for people using it and for communities living alongside it.
The reporting by Sightsavers was highly commended for its openness around the challenges it faced and how it performed against set targets, as well as demonstrating clear alignment with its vision, mission and strategic priorities. NSPCC’s reporting was also highly commended for giving a voice to its beneficiaries through commentary from its ‘Young People’s Advisory Board’ and a very transparent remuneration policy.
While these charities demonstrated an impressive approach to reporting, our wider review suggested that many are still on a journey towards telling a cogent and consistent end-to-end story.
Charities can further engage with their stakeholders in their reporting through:
Openness in the charity’s purpose and values
Charities should be clear from the outset about their purpose and the importance of their work. The vision, mission and strategic priorities should be clear and in alignment. There should also be a focus on how their work is carried out, and the way in which they have engaged with different stakeholders, including beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and funders, and the value this brings to the charitable cause.
Openness in how the charity measures its impact
Impact is a term that is often used by charities, but it is not always clear what this means. It is important for charities to explain what success means for them and how this aligns to their charitable purpose, particularly in support of their beneficiaries. Informative and engaging case studies can be a good way to set the scene. Reporting achievements against targets is another powerful way of demonstrating impact, particularly when placed in the context of a longer term journey.
Openness in the challenges faced by the charity
Charities continue to face risks and uncertainties. Being open about present and future challenges, and setting out credible plans around what actions will be taken, will help to demonstrate that the charity understands the context in which they are working. Explaining to stakeholders the lessons that have been learned helps to assure them that the charity’s funds will be used effectively.
Openness to new ways of bringing reporting to life
Charities are exploring new ways of bringing their reporting to life, for example the Sightsavers’ online dashboard. This provides a more up to date view of the progress that is explained in their annual report and represents an example of what innovative online reporting could look like. This aligns with our call for a shift in mindset to take a closer look at what measures of success are used and how these can be presented in a meaningful and comparable way.
By embracing openness in their reporting, charities can respond to questions about their effectiveness, demonstrate their value to society and, ultimately, build public trust.
For further information on the PwC Building Public Trust Awards, visit the website. We assessed the reporting by registered charities in the Charity Finance 'Charity 100 Index’. If you would like feedback on how your charity scored in this year's assessment, please get in touch by sending an email to [email protected].