Charity communications 'are unappealing to ethnic minorities'

Study by Diverse Ethics, commissioned by the animal charity the RSPCA, says talk of diversity has little substance

Diverse Ethics
Diverse Ethics

Charities do not make enough effort to communicate with different ethnic audiences, according to a study carried out for the RSPCA.

The research, by the social enterprise and consultancy Diverse Ethics, looked at the RSPCA’s communications with beneficiaries and supporters and compared them with 10 other charities of a similar size, including the NSPCC and Diabetes UK.

The report concluded that the charities’ websites gave the impression that all people were the same and had similar problems. "On many websites, there was spin about diversity, for example by using ethnic images, but little substance," it says.

The study also found evidence that charities lacked ethnic diversity among their management and trustees. "The overall impression one got was that ethnic community engagement was either not understood fully, or not valued by the leadership of these charities," the report says.

It singled out Oxfam in particular, saying that members of its management and executive team were "primarily mono-cultural".

Jane Cotton, director of human resources at Oxfam, said it was a multicultural organisation.

"While a large number of staff in our head office are British, as is to be expected for an organisation based in England, Oxfam is a global organisation and key posts in our international offices reflect that," she said. "Four of our seven regional directors are from developing countries." 

Atul Shah, chief executive of Diverse Ethics, said the RSPCA needed to "focus as much on the culture and values of human beings as on the animals".

He told Third Sector it was important for charities to develop communications strategies that were more inclusive of different ethnic groups.

In some cases, he said, if an ethnic group was particularly affected by an issue it might be appropriate to develop a sub-section of the website that was tailored to it.

"By making these changes, charities could benefit in terms of raising more funds from these groups and reaching more beneficiaries," said Shah. "And it could stop them from inadvertently discriminating through their communications."

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