Why the NCVO and Sir Stephen Bubb's Acevo are uniting to push 'brand charity'

The umbrella bodies have agreed to work together to promote the sector, writes Susannah Birkwood

Sir Stephen Bubb of Acevo
Sir Stephen Bubb of Acevo

On 14 October, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the chief executives body Acevo announced that they had agreed to work together to promote among the public and journalists the positive impact of the voluntary sector.

The umbrella groups will work alongside the Understanding Charities Group, which was set up last year by the NCVO and CharityComms, the sector communications membership body, to secure better treatment for charities in the media.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, recently met Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, to discuss the initiative. Bubb says the two bodies want to launch a campaign using the "best brains in the world of PR and communications" to promote what he calls "brand charity".

He says the campaign is unlikely to involve posters and billboards, however. And, unlike the US-based Charity Defense Council, which earlier this year organised - but then cancelled - a march designed to raise money to defend charities against critics of their spending, there are unlikely to be any demonstrations.

Joe Saxton, founder of the research consultancy nfpSynergy, who has been helping to lead the Understanding Charities Group, says there will come a time when the new initiative hatched by Acevo and the NCVO takes over from the UCG, which he says would be a welcome change.

"I hope there will be a point at which the old initiative is swept up by the new initiative as it gathers momentum, with more senior buy-in," he says. "An awful lot of fundraising directors and communications directors know what the UCG is up to, but the chief executives have been saying they know nothing about it - and if they aren't on board with this, it doesn't have the same credibility."

Saxton says the UCG will continue working to tackle the sector's image problem until it is superseded, although he does not know when this will happen. The initiative needs a full-time director to be able to thrive, he says, and while some existing UCG members are certain to continue leading the new initiative - such as Karl Wilding, director of public policy at the NCVO - Saxton does not envisage being given a key role himself.

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