Vicky Browning: The lessons of the Panama papers

The leak of information from the law firm Mossack Fonseca shows how important transparency has become as an issue, writes our columnist

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

The release of the Panama papers - 11.5 million leaked files from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca revealing the secretive offshore tax affairs of the rich - might on the surface have little to do with the charity sector.

But the fact that they've led to the publication of the tax returns of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Chancellor, George Osborne, the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, makes them part of a wider shift towards transparency that charities urgently need to consider in their communications.

As Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "I think the mood has become one that's very clear - that all MPs within a year or two will be publishing their returns."

He went on: "I think it's a pity that we've lost privacy, but to some extent it's politicians' fault because we lost the trust of the public as much as anything over the expenses affair."

The public's appetite for transparency is growing. And transparency and trust are inextricably linked.

At a recent set of focus groups with members of the public about their views on charities, organised by the Understanding Charities Group, the issue of transparency came up time and again. Supporters (who, it turned out, were much harsher critics than non-supporters) expressed concern that they didn't know where their money was going and were uncertain whether charities were "actually doing good".

Communicating - and, crucially, demonstrating - transparency is just as critical a challenge for the charity sector as it now seems to be for our political leaders.

Vicky Browning is director of CharityComms

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus