Highlights of charities’ evidence to House of Lords

There has been lots of talk in the charity sector over the last few weeks about the recent report by the House of Lords Charity Committee.

But while there has been lots of focus on the report, I thought it would also be worth going through the written evidence submitted to the committee and picking out some of the views about the challenges and opportunities related to marketing and communications.

I should point out that just because I’ve included a quote doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with it. My only selection criteria has been that it’s interesting and thought-provoking.

So here it is…

British Heart Foundation

“The reputational damage of negative press coverage and the uncovering of isolated instances of mal practice have had a negative impact on public trust and confidence in the sector, joined by uncertainty in the economic outlook following the Brexit vote which has placed significant pressure on public fundraising.”

Devon Air Ambulance

“For organisations like ours, which rely wholly on the support of local people and businesses, our reputation is our greatest asset and we have lost support from people convinced that we have or will sell their personal details to third parties or in some other way breach their trust.”

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts

“My concern remains that without some positive action the past high reputation of the charity sector may suffer from erosion – a trend accentuated by the recent steady drip of negative stories. The sector needs to understand that its reputation with the general public is as good as the weakest link in its chain.”

Springboard Project

“Our day to day activities build and maintain our charity’s reputation but this can evaporate in hours and the national media are generally unhelpful to the sector. They fail to explain the balance and different pressures on charities but are quick to exploit issues or perceived issues.”

Institute of Risk Management

“We should stop apologising for paying CEO’s the market rate. If a CEO manages a £120million charity made up of different ‘businesses’ it is reasonable that they are paid over £100,000 p.a. The sector needs strong leadership and these leaders needs to be motivated and remunerated accordingly. Government needs to support the sector and explain this to the public.”

Church Army

“Arguably it is some of the biggest and best known charities that have behaved badly and our whole sector is tarnished as a result. And yet they still use chuggers to hassle shoppers in the street and still hassle people on the phone. It is as if the biggest charities have learned very little.”

New Philanthropy Capital

“Charities have committed a number of own goals over the past couple of years, not least in fundraising. Too often the culture in fundraising has not valued donors in the right way, and ended up treating people as cash cows to be milked.”

The Brain Tumour Charity

“Although the rise of digital marketing has meant that it has never been easier to get your message out and be visible, the charity sector faces challenges in the recruitment of staff with digital skills, given salaries on offer compared to similar jobs in the private sector.”

Comic Relief

“Aside from one or two big players (Cancer Research UK) who have the revenue and budget to innovate or use digital advertising effectively, most charities (even big ones) do not have the fire power to build modern marketing offerings. The risk in halting existing offline marketing techniques is too great as they are the life blood of most charities.”

The Cranfield Trust

“Charities do need to improve marketing skills, but we believe that they also need to understand that these can only be effective when supporting a good strategy – we receive many requests for marketing support from charities whose future direction is unclear… Charities tend to request support for tactical areas – such as marketing – but often lack the strategic framework to carry out an effective marketing project.”

Survivors UK

“Charities are very effective in embracing digital marketing and social media as a cheap form of reaching out to both beneficiaries and potential donors. There is a high pool of talent in the not-for-profit sector in this field but salaries are not competitive with the commercial sector and so turnover can be high.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK

Charities are very effective in embracing digital marketing and social media as a cheap form of reaching out to both beneficiaries and potential donors. There is a high pool of talent in the not-for-profit sector in this field but salaries are not competitive with the commercial sector and so turnover can be high.”

Public Relations and Communications Association

“One of the biggest barriers to innovation is the inability for charities to be seen to experiment. In other words, charities are so risk averse to new ideas, in case they fail, they are often unwilling to innovate. In the digital sphere, charities lagged far behind brands in using social media for customer relations, although that is now changing and (especially in the bigger organisations).”

Charity Evaluation Working Group

“Charities that are delivering evidence-based programmes should be encouraged to focus more on evaluating the quality of delivery, and be encouraged to learn from negative results as well as promoting success… The negative press received by charities surrounding issues, such as the collapse of Kids Company and executive pay, relate to the minority of charities in the UK and do little to encourage charities to talk about their mistakes or report negative results – when often, this is how charities can improve, learn and grow.”

Health Poverty Action

“The increased negative public perception of ‘overheads’, surge in negative media coverage, and lack of positive narrative to aid understanding proves a serious threat to our sustainability.”


“Despite the recent negative headlines that some charities have received, it is important to remember that the majority of people trust charities, continue to support charities either by giving their time or they money, and see charity as the main way in which to do good.”

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