Charities are not well positioned to defend each other during reputational crises, according to the chief supporter officer at the British Red Cross.
Paul Amadi, who oversees fundraising at the humanitarian organisation, told delegates at the Institute of Fundraising’s individual giving conference in central London yesterday that charities had not historically demonstrated collaborative spirit in the face of negative headlines.
Rebecca Munro, communications, fundraising and policy director at the RSPB, who sat alongside Amadi on a panel about trust in the sector, said she believed charities needed to have more open relationships with each other, rather than competitive ones.
"The essence of genuine collaboration is when you bring people to the highest common denominator rather than all sink to the bottom," she said.
"I don’t think, during recent scandals, anyone has either stood up for other charities that have been unfairly treated or condemned them when they’ve been fairly treated.
"There is a complicit silence instead of actual genuine collaboration across the sector. We do tend to act individually or within compliance regimes rather than genuinely working together."
But Amadi questioned whether charities were set up for that kind of collaboration. He said he recognised that it would be a good approach, but there were "cultural and practical challenges to actually living that".
He added: "What drives the behaviour that makes us keep our heads below the parapet and retreat into our own organisations with all the barricades up is that we love our organisations and we don’t want to be taking risks.
"I’m not employed to take risks on behalf of the sector. I’m employed to look after the best interests of the British Red Cross.
"We don’t have that collaborative spirit, or we certainly haven’t historically demonstrated it."
Richard Taylor, a consultant and former chair of the IoF, warned that charities needed to be more willing to admit mistakes.
"If trust is as fragile as we think it is, I’m frankly not happy when I see charities trying to defend the indefensible," he said. "When they persist in saying ‘you’re exaggerating the problem’ or ‘it wasn’t that bad really’ or ‘we’ve investigated it and you’ll just have to trust we’ve done what we needed to’, that is chipping away trust for all of us."