6. Charities Have Lost Their Moral Compass

Seven Arguments Against Charity
6. Charities Have Lost Their Moral Compass
Most people would say that the work of charities is valuable; in fact, some of us would go so far as to say the work of charities is essential for the wellbeing of society.  But, against a backdrop of negative news stories, recent years have seen a perceptible shift and hardening in the relationship the public has with charities. In the sixth of a themed series of posts,  addressing some of the more common complaints against charity, The Boiling Frog considers how charities appear to have lost the public’s trust and what needs to be done to restore it.
Charities are having a hard time. We can cite the crash and burn of Kids Company, the sex scandals of Oxfam and Save the Children; the nuisance of chuggers – ‘charity muggers’ ; charity cold calling; and even the selling of personal details. Together, these are a significant part of why charities have lost public trust and sympathy in recent years.

None of us should try and defend charity mismanagement. Nor should we make excuses for any charity which in the past has used hard-sell tactics to raise donations.

But does the entire voluntary and community sector deserve the reputation damage and fall in donations because of the poor management or misdemeanours of a high-profile few? Very many not-for-profits, from the smallest to the largest, behave responsibly and in accordance with their charitable mission. A charity I led for ten years never once made a cold call for donations, or got caught up in any kind of scandal, and I can’t think of a single neighbouring charity that did either.

Nonetheless important lessons have been learned from the case studies many of us have read and winced over. So, where to from here? Within the sector, charities and voluntary groups must continue to introduce new safeguarding procedures to reduce the risk of poor management or bad behaviour. Above all, trustees must step up, be more aware of their governance responsibilities and play their role as a critical friend to the management team.

Donors and company sponsors have a part to play too: to ask questions and be more discerning about where we give support. Ask your favourite charity about their fundraising activities. Maybe check with them too about how they protect your personal details if you are already a donor or service user.  Well-run charities will welcome the opportunity to share with you their good practice.

The fact that the voluntary and community sector as a whole has lost so much of the public trust recently is not fair to the very many charities which are well managed and behave ethically. Closer scrutiny is the right course if it exposes bad practice but at the same time celebrates publicly the organisations epitomising what we all want charity to be.

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