Challenging charity bad press

  • Bad press has damaged the reputation of charities in the UK
  • Small charities can help rebuild trust and inspire people to get involved by sharing the impact of their work
  • We explore ways that you can share your charity’s inspirational stories

The bad press received by charities over the past 12 months has had a negative impact on the sector.

Stories about bad fundraising practices, including the experience of Olive Cooke, led to the Etherington Review and subsequently to the launch of the Fundraising Regulator. Meanwhile, the collapse of Kids Company has raised questions about governance and the role of trustees.

These and other stories have damaged the reputation of the entire sector. Public perceptions of trust and reliability have been affected, and many charities are reporting a drop in donations.

In a survey commissioned by SCVO, more than 25% of those questioned reported losing trust in charities over the last year, and 41% said that negative media stories had affected their trust.

Many argue that it is time for charities to fight back. Rather than waiting for the media storm to pass, charities should be sharing stories about the difference they are making in order to win back trust and engagement.

We look at ways you can join in, share your stories and do your bit to rebuild the sector’s reputation.

The day I made a difference

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network has launched a section called The day I made a difference, in which volunteers, charity staff and those making a difference in their local community are invited to share their stories.

Why not write a story to illustrate the work you do? This is a great opportunity for small charities to get high-profile coverage, as a new story is published each week and promoted widely on social media.

Good News Shared

Similarly, the Good News Shared website gathers positive stories. It aims to “spread as much joy and positivity as possible, and raise awareness of the incredible work charities and social enterprises are doing.”

The site argues that journalists want to publish positive stories about charities, and demonstrates this appetite with its own success – receiving more than 250,000 page views in the past two years.

Find out how you can contribute to Good News Shared.

Constructive Voices

NCVO’s Constructive Voices project aims to “ensure the positive impact of charities is publicly heard and harnessed for the benefit of society.” It provides a list of different charitable areas that journalists are currently interested in writing about, and invites charities to sign up for press coverage if any are applicable.

The ConstructiveVox Twitter account shares positive stories as well as resources for journalists.

Age UK

When the story broke about Age UK’s commercial partnership with E.ON, there was a lot of negative press, and the Charity Commission told Age UK to consider if the relationship was in its best interests.

Age UK was cleared of misleading allegations in the media, and launched a Twitter campaign #ProudToBeAgeUK to counter the attacks.

Staff, volunteers and beneficiaries used social media to tell their own story of the work they do, and the positive role the charity has played in their lives.

Ask your own staff, volunteers and beneficiaries to post positive messages on social media to highlight the good news stories for your charity. It doesn’t have to be part of a campaign, it all helps to spread a positive feeling.

Celebration weeks

Other opportunities for sharing your stories include Volunteers’ Week (1-12 June 2016), Small Charity Week (13-18 June) and Community Centre Week (19-25 July).