Making Charities More Ethical

Charities, theoretically, are the epitome of ‘ethical’.

Charities, theoretically, are the epitome of ‘ethical’. The ultimate aim of most charities is to make the world a better place, in some smaller or larger way. However, over the last few years, the public have become a little disillusioned about charities.

High profile scandals like that which overtook London’s Kids Company, coupled with uncomfortable revelations about the size of big charity bosses salaries, have made people rather more wary about donating. “I don’t want my donation to go on champagne for CEOs” is an explanation you hear a lot now when trying to persuade people to donate. It’s hardly a fair point, as most third sector organisations are small operations staffed by volunteers.

However,  the actions of high profile groups affect the reputation of the whole sector, which means we all have to work together to improve things. Here are a few suggestions which may help to restore the ethical image of third sector groups in the eyes of the public.

Arguably, the most important thing to work on is transparency. Today’s charity donors want to be sure that their money is going to the cause they ostensibly donated to, as directly as possible. Of course, this isn’t always possible - most charities wouldn’t be able to do the work that they do without fulfilling certain overheads. Most people will understand and accept this if it’s explained to them as transparently as possible, however. If you’re throwing a big fund-eating event, therefore, it’s important to explain why the initial outlay of this is important for fundraising purposes, and helps you to do the good work you do more effectively. This will prevent people from getting the wrong impression. The more transparent you are in your dealings, the more people will trust you, and the more inclined they will be to help out with your cause. Transparency improvement measures may include:

  • Publishing your accounts.
  • Modernising - a blog and/or social media presence is a great way to keep people informed of what you’re doing and why.
  • Be accountable. In the age of social media, people expect to be able to interact a lot more with organisations, and to be able to demand (and receive) explanations for things. Accountability and transparency are intrinsically linked - don’t provide transparency and then fail to enter into discussion about what you’ve revealed.
To prove your commitment to ‘doing good’ (and, crucially, to inspire others to believe in that commitment), it’s important to maintain ethical ideals across the board - even with the most mundane of considerations. For example, when you’re going to compare gas and electricity suppliers for your office, think about the environmental implications of your choice. Use fair and ethically sourced products where possible in the day to day running of your business. Draw up a set of principles, and stick to them wherever possible. Be considerate of employees and volunteers, and give them as fair a deal as possible. If you’re in a position to invest funds, don’t put them into companies which have a bad ethical rap. Make sure that your fundraising methods are fair, honest, and non-threatening. All of this may not be easy sometimes, and it may seem as though you’re diverting a lot of resources into ethical consistency, but, in this case, it’s worth it. The phrase ‘charity begins at home!’ is being thrown around more than ever these days, and it will be used against you if you’re not being ethically consistent. You’ll come across as hypocritical if you’re trying to change one aspect of the world, but using ethically dubious practices and resources to do so. Be the change you wish to see.

Keeping Your Eye On The Main Aim
One thing that makes people suspicious is when charities continue to run even after their main aim has ostensibly been fulfilled. Of course, there may still be work to be done, or perhaps the charity feels that it can expand on its success with other aims. However, many see a charity’s failure to ‘wrap up’ or otherwise change following successes as an indication that the charity is more concerned with lining its own pockets than in the work it’s supposed to be doing. Always keep your resources and efforts channeled firmly into your main aim. That is, after all, what your donors are paying for. Keep people informed of your efforts in this regard and, if you are changing your remit in any way, be fully transparent with your reasons and methods.

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