Fundraising Week: RSPCA approach to campaigning 'mistaken', says head of communications Chris Wainwright

During a panel discussion, he says charities should be prepared to own up to problems and fix them, rather than blame the agendas of others

The RSPCA made a mistake in its approach to campaigning in the past, using sensationalist tactics that were inviting criticism, according to its head of communications.

But Chris Wainwright said more charities should be prepared to own up and attempt to fix the problem when they make mistakes, rather than claiming there was an agenda behind negative news stories.

Wainwright, who became director of communications and external affairs at the charity in January, made the comments during a panel discussion on public trust and the media at Third Sector’s Fundraising Week yesterday.

"Frankly, in my view the RSPCA got it wrong two years ago when it talked about the issues in relation to foxhunting and the badger cull," he said.

"The motive was right, the message was right, but the delivery and the execution were so sensationalist it was asking for a punch-up. That’s not what our supporters give us the money for; they give us the money to be the voice for our cause and to do the right things."

Wainwright said charities were in denial if they did not accept that some practices in the sector had got out of hand.

He said: "Where we’ve got it wrong we’ve got to be humble enough to say: ‘OK, we’ve got it wrong, let’s try and put it right.’

"We don’t even talk about conspiracies or political motivations, because if you go down that path you get completely sidetracked and you live in a bubble where you think everyone’s against you. I don’t believe that’s the case."

But his fellow panellist, David Mbaziira, head of external communications at the fundraising agency Home Fundraising, argued that much of the national coverage had been simply attacking charities.

"There have been isolated cases of bad practice, but specific cases were then expanded," he said.

"If you have a national media organisation in effect on a bit of a witch-hunt, looking at every aspect of what you do and how you do it, they’re going to find something."

Mbaziira argued that charities had been lumped together unfairly: "If we had a utility company and there was an issue, I don’t think we would then say that the entire commercial sector was at fault or using bad practice."

Peter Gilheany, director of PR at Forster Communications, pointed to the banking sector, where banks as a group had been criticised by the public after the 2008 crash.

The same thing had happened to charities, he said, partly because the sector had failed to explain to the public what it meant to be a modern charity.

Chloe Stables, external relations manager at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the sector was in a better position to issue a coordinated respons, should another sector-wide scandal occur.

She said the NCVO, the Institute of Fundraising, the charity leaders group Acevo, the Charities Aid Foundation and others had increased the level of communication and information sharing between them.

"It isn’t helpful if there is a big story and we all come out and say different things," she said. "So it’s about making sure that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

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

More from Fundraising Week 2016…

Fundraiser of the Week: Lily Elizabeth Davies of Chickenshed

Fundraiser of the Week: Lily Elizabeth Davies of Chickenshed

This week we talk to Lily Elizabeth Davies, director of fundraising, marketing and commerce at Chickenshed, about the challenges of a diverse income stream

Investec crowned Business of the Year at Business Charity Awards

Investec crowned Business of the Year at Business Charity Awards

The financial services firm was rewarded at a black-tie dinner in London last night for its work with the Bromley by Bow Centre in east London, one of 23 awards in total

Fundraising Week: Day Three Highlights

Fundraising Week: Day Three Highlights

Review of the final day of the Fundraising Week conference, which focused on digital and data protection

Fundraising Week: Understanding how donors feel 'will be next big thing', says academic

Fundraising Week: Understanding how donors feel 'will be next big thing', says academic

Adrian Sargeant tells a Fundraising Week conference that charities should focus on building a connection with donors, and money will follow

Fundraising Week: A third of eligible charities have not yet paid levy, says Lord Grade

Fundraising Week: A third of eligible charities have not yet paid levy, says Lord Grade

The chair of the Fundraising Regulator tells Third Sector's Fundraising Week conference that 600 of the 1,900 charities asked to contribute to its costs have not paid so far

Fundraising Week: Day Two Highlights

Fundraising Week: Day Two Highlights

We take a look back at the second day of Fundraising Week, which focused on corporates, major donors and foundations

Fundraising Week: Make your applications clearer, grant-seekers urged

Fundraising Week: Make your applications clearer, grant-seekers urged

Representatives of four major trusts and foundations tell a panel session that charities should have a better understanding of what funders are looking for

Watch: Big Questions Live highlights

Watch: Big Questions Live highlights

Leading figures from the charity and digital sectors debate the hottest topics in fundraising at Fundraising Week 2017

Fundraising Week: Basic compliance 'not enough to attract major donors', says academic

Fundraising Week: Basic compliance 'not enough to attract major donors', says academic

Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy, tells a Fundraising Week event that charities confuse 'hygiene' factors such as filing accounts on time with qualities that motivate donors

Ten senior CofE charity managers got more than £1m of incentive payments last year

Ten senior CofE charity managers got more than £1m of incentive payments last year

The payments, spread between the 10, are based on high investment returns for the Church Commissioners for England, according to its annual report