The National Council for Voluntary Organisations will spend £50,000 on exploring how to set up a "charity sector newsroom" in order to encourage the media to cover stories about charities more frequently and in a more positive way.
The news emerged at a meeting last week of the Understanding Charities Group, organised by CharityComms, at the NCVO’s headquarters in London, where about 80 voluntary sector executives gathered to discuss ways of strengthening public trust and confidence in charities.
It is understood that the NCVO agreed the £50,000 amount as part of its latest budget, which has just been decided.
One delegate at the event, who cannot be named because the meeting was off the record, said the initiative would employ former Fleet Street journalists who would turn charity press releases into good news stories for passing to the national media.
A spokeswoman for the NCVO declined to comment further on the umbrella body’s plans for the newsroom, which was first announced by Martyn Lewis, chair of the NCVO, in May.
Lewis said at the time that the newsroom would employ journalists with contacts at tabloids such as the Daily Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Mail.
At the Understanding Charities Group meeting, it was also said that Public Voice, the voluntary sector coalition that campaigned for public interests in communications policy and regulation, was being revived.
"The BBC and ITV have been let off the hook over the past few years," said one participant. "They should be reporting on charities more; to get a really strong lobby from across the sector to push the BBC to do something would be really great."
Another proposal was for charities to ask the BBC or ITV to make a documentary about the effect it would have on Britain if the charity sector went on strike. The proponent of the idea asked: "How about a documentary on what would happen if the people in the voluntary sector – which is worth £65bn, twice the defence budget – were to pull out? What would the effect be at grass-roots level? Nobody has ever done that. It could be a fantastic challenge to a documentary maker."
It was also suggested that reports should be commissioned about what MPs, journalists, the financial sector and the Muslim community were doing for the voluntary sector, in order to create stories about the way charities work with other heavily criticised groups.
Charities should also invite journalists to see the work they do, in the same way that they do with MPs they want to influence, according to one head of public affairs.
Joe Saxton, founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, who led a session on generating more generic media coverage of charities and who agreed for his comments to be reported, said: "I would happily make the case that the charity sector is more integral to British life than the arts sector, but religion and the arts get covered in a more generic way."
Participants in the event – which included chief executives and heads of fundraising and communications, and several of the largest and best-known charities – attended discussions on the media, creating a positive narrative on how modern charities work, creating ways for more people to engage with charities and measuring the success of the initiative itself.