Since the Impact Coalition was set up five years ago, its purpose has been unclear to many people in the sector. It seems to have been trying to combine improving practices on accountability and transparency with fending off criticism from the media and the public about the way in which the sector works.
Its purpose will become clearer now that it is part of chief executives body Acevo, according to Liam Cranley, the newly appointed head of the coalition.
"The work done by the organisation over the past few years in making charities more transparent has been very useful," he says. "But there will now be a shift towards communicating with the public."
Cranley says the coalition, whose steering group includes representatives of the Institute of Fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board, the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association and the Charity Finance Directors' Group, as well as a number of charities, will publish a document called How To Deal With the Media in a Crisis in the next few months. The organisation will also run a 'crisis response unit' to help charities that come under fire from the media. This could involve drafting statements or advising charities on what to say to journalists, says Cranley.
"Most of our work at the beginning will address misconceptions about what charities do, especially on subjects such as how much charities spend on administration," he says.
This work will be reactive rather than proactive at first. Cranley, whose last job was as an income-generation officer at Acevo and who previously spent a year teaching philosophy, says he would in future consider launching an advertising campaign to raise public awareness of how much charities spend on administration.
"I don't think people are ready for it yet," he says. "Telling the public that charities spent, say, 12 per cent of their income on administration might put people off donating, even though it would address the misperception that the figure is about 40 per cent."
The coalition will also carry on trying to make charities more transparent, according to Cranley.
It is planning to launch a 'transparency manifesto' that will ask charities to commit to a few key principles about telling supporters and the general public how their money is spent.
Cranley says this would not necessarily mean asking charities to be completely transparent from the beginning.
"If a charity made a mistake, and this meant it might have to reveal all of its financial details in one go, that might damage its reputation with the public," he says. "If there was something they could do over a couple of years to remedy the situation, we'd ask them to become transparent over a longer period of time."