Charities should replace impact reports with tweets, says consultant

Such reports tend to be 'deeply boring' and organisations should favour sound bites instead, says Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

Charities should tweet about the difference they are making rather than publishing long impact reports, according to Joe Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy.

Speaking at a session on accountability at the Charity Finance Group's annual conference in London, Saxton said most charities were "deeply turgid, boring and dull" when they talked about what they had done.

"Impact reports are not generally designed with the audience in mind," he said. "In today’s mass media world of text messages and tweets, if you want to have impact with a lot of people you probably need to do it in 140 characters or less." 

Saxton said he would encourage charities not to publish impact reports, because they inoculated board members into thinking that they had cracked accountability.

"Turn the impact report into something with ‘word bites’ and sound bites you can use on the radio, or when you are talking to staff," he said.

Achieving accountability could take longer than most charities realised, he said.

"The reason charities don’t ask donors what they want is that they would say they want less communication, less often and through fewer channels – and this would raise less money," he said.

At the same session, Kate Lee, chief executive of Myton Hospice Group, said improving transparency and accountability enabled charities to better understand what they did, what worked and what did not.

A culture of transparency and accountability, particularly being comfortable with admitting mistakes and dealing with failure, led to greater confidence and innovation, she said.

Lee said nfpSynergy research found that 7 per cent of the public thought direct marketing worked, and only 5 per cent thought charities should spend any money on fundraising.

"Public trust in charities is high, but people do not understand what we do or how we operate," she said.   

Jenna Pudelek

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