Sector 'losing out' to big brands

Charities risk losing out to companies if they don't build and maintain their brands more effectively, according to the director of high-value relationships at Cancer Research UK.

Paul Farthing told delegates at a session yesterday that companies were increasingly promoting their own foundations, selling ethical products or running social campaigns, and that charities were finding it difficult to compete. Some consumers were choosing ethical products rather than buying traditional, charity-endorsed products, he warned.

Analysis by CRUK found that 34 per cent of shoppers were more likely to buy a product if they knew it had positive social and environmental actions - Fairtrade sales increased by 47 per cent last year - compared with 27 per cent who were more inclined to buy if the company had a charity partner.

"Worryingly, charities are not fundamental to people's buying habits, and changing social agendas mean consumers are seeking more direct involvement in ethical behaviour," said Farthing. "Social enterprise and corporate foundations such as Costa Coffee and McDonald's meet this need, but charities are losing their value."

Charities needed to take greater advantage of the growth in ethical business and consumerism to buck the trend, said Farthing.

He said they should become more business-savvy and build unique selling points. They should also be more proactive at asserting their brands and continually assessing supporters' needs.

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