Interview: Helen Dent, chief executive, Family Welfare Association

As chief executive of the Family Welfare Association, Helen Dent has mixed feelings about the charity rebranding as Family Action.

The organisation, founded in 1869, has dropped the word 'welfare' because of its negative connotations in the minds of service users and corporate funders.

"It's a big disappointment - we're very proud of being part of a welfare state infrastructure," says Dent. "It's very sad that there are so many people who don't appreciate it."

The rebrand is part of a strategy to court more corporate funding. Ninety per cent of the charity's £23m income is from statutory sources.

Dent says this will "buy independence" for the charity, which helps people in 45,000 families with financial, health and other problems. But she admits that corporations' views can also influence the social agenda.

"That's one of the areas we struggle with, but I don't think funding will ever fall into our laps," Dent says. "The need for family support is a much more difficult thing for corporations to understand - they're good at funding charities solely for children, but not at making the connection between giving money to children and improving quality of life for their parents."

She describes finding a new name as a "nightmare", partly because many potential names sounded like marriage counselling services or religious organisations. Staff suggested hundreds of names that were eventually narrowed down to two: Family Focus and Family Matters. The word play of Family Matters polarised staff opinion, whereas Family Focus was considered weak.

The charity eventually settled on 'action' to replace 'association'. "'Association' was a trendy title for charities in the post-war years because it reflected partnership working and the governance model, in which we had local, quasi-independent branches," says Dent. "We became a more centralised organisation in the late 80s, so 'association' had become meaningless."

The rebrand cost £25,000, of which £10,000 covered printing costs. "Rebranding shows that we spend enough money on looking good," says Dent. "Now we look like a charity that has a turnover of £23m. At one time, when we were smaller, it was helpful to look as if we didn't spend any money. Now there's an expectation to show we spend money, without being seen to be profligate."

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