In light of the recent third-sector scandal, Linda Todd, Strategic Communications Consultant and TBE columnist discusses why you should do your homework before making your charitable commitment.
It has long been recognised as good practice for businesses to give back by aligning themselves with good causes or a charity be that through fundraising, sponsorship, mentoring, providing pro bono services or being an ambassador.
Lots of business base their decisions to support a charity because they are personally close to their employee’s hearts and they genuinely want to support them. Others may choose them for a more corporate reason, which may be more about building brand trust or helping them get closer to a particular audience. Whatever the reason, businesses should approach building a relationship with a charity in the same way as they would choose any other strategic business partner. It is not enough to pick a charity that simply warms your heart and shares your corporate values, you need to check they are as robust and as good to do business with as you are.
In case you think that sounds a bit harsh then lets consider the voluntary or third sector as a whole for a second. Statistics released in a Government briefing paper last year showed that in England and Wales there are 167,100 registered charities with a combined total income of around 73 billion. It is a sizeable sector. Many of those charities are handling huge sums of money and a lot of this income is coming direct from central and local government, national lottery grants and donors. As such charities must operate in as corporate a manner as any other business and therefore they should be expected to understand the importance of reputation management and relationship building alongside careful financial management. They should have watertight processes in place that ensure they and their employees operate within strict codes of conduct just as you have in your business and they should be accountable to deliver on what they promise.
Recent news about the conduct of some Oxfam employees is beyond disappointing but sadly it’s not infrequent to hear about misdemeanours of charitable organisations in the news. So, before you place your trust in a charity or indeed agree to align your business publicly with any another business brand, make sure you choose carefully, take time to do your due diligence and always have a communication plan in place that you can implement in the unfortunate event that relationship turns sour.