Clare Laxton: Kindness is our USP

It has to be at the root of everything we do, and we shouldn't forget this basic fact

Clare Laxton
Clare Laxton

A woman sits crying on the tube. The person next to her taps her on the arm and offers a tissue. The woman takes it gratefully and smiles. A simple act that shows kindness still exists in this world, but hopefully not just in isolated incidents on the tube.

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness this week after coming across this calendar for December from Action for Happiness. The calendar outlines little acts of kindness you can do to have a kinder December. I loved it immediately and committed to being a bit kinder this month (by sharing it with you readers I have completed one kindness-related task!). But it also made me feel a bit sad that we needed something such as Action for Happiness to remind us to be kind.

Many people think the charity sector is all soft and fluffy kindness wrapped in chocolate, but I wonder if even we have lost our kind streak. Everyone who works in the sector will be familiar with some corners of the sector where there are high levels of competitiveness. This competitiveness can get to such heights that it makes us forget why we’re here. It can be seen as absolutely essential to getting ahead. I have also encountered lots of people who think that getting ahead in the sector means being ruthless and cold as a leader.

I’m calling time on this unkind attitude.

Kindness has to be at the root of everything we do as a sector. I truly believe that you can’t have a charitable act without a streak of kindness within it. To that end, kindness in the charity sector should no longer be seen as something soft and fluffy but an essential part of who we are, how we motivate people and how we reward our teams, supporters and volunteers. What better way to go into the New Year as charities by thinking of how we can all be a bit kinder?

Yes, being in the charity sector requires speaking a lot of truth to power, and sometimes speaking uncomfortable truths too. There is an argument that to do this we need to drop the kindness and ramp up our ruthlessness and hard edge. Although a hard edge (and thick skin) is undoubtedly needed for speaking truth to power, I still feel the sector has a USP in that kindness is still at the root of what we believe. We can advocate and call for change with an element of intrinsic kindness that doesn’t disappear just because we are talking about hard things. It is what our beneficiaries would expect from us: change the world, but don’t lose your values and heart while doing it.

Kindness should be the golden thread running through the charity sector. We couldn’t and shouldn’t exist without it. Happy holidays and here’s to the kindest New Year ever.

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