Move to bring together public trust initiatives

The group working on the project to improve public trust and confidence in charities is taking the initiative in working more closely with three other ventures with similar goals.

At a meeting at the end of February, the project's steering group discussed the recent proliferation of sector initiatives to boost public confidence by increasing transparency and accountability.

These initiatives are Guidestar, the Self-Regulation of Fundraising Unit and the new charityfacts.org website soon to be launched by Professor Adrian Sargeant (Third Sector, 9 February).

Shelter fundraising director Alan Gosschalk, who is leading the project, said his group had already been in contact with those behind the other three proposals, and hoped to work with them. "We are also looking at how we ensure we position this as an all-encompassing initiative, rather than just sitting alongside the others," he added.

Gosschalk's project hopes to raise enough funds from charities to employ a full-time press officer, probably based at the NCVO, whose proactive role would be to co-ordinate responses to national media enquiries about fundraising and other issues that affect public perception of charities.

He said the four charities that have funded charityfacts.org - Cancer Research UK, the RSPCA, the NSPCC and the British Red Cross - are all key players in his initiative. "Adrian and we have been aware of each other all the way along," he said. "We are now making sure that the answers we give in our Q&A match the information on charityfacts."

He added that he was already familiar with the Self-Regulation of Fundraising Unit, because Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, which is setting it up, is also in the group. "The launch of the unit is an opportunity. It fits with our ethos of being more open," he explained.

As for Guidestar, he said a representative from the site gave a presentation at the group's first significant meeting.

Institute of Fundraising chair Simon Burne agreed that the four initiatives should be working together. "The worst thing that could happen would be that we end up confusing the public, which would only undermine trust and confidence," he said.

Gosschalk added that during March, his group aimed to finalise the guiding principles behind the initiative; determine the "key messages" charities should convey publicly; complete the question and answer document that will provide charities with standard answers to give to common media inquiries; and "pin down what success looks like in two years' time".

According to Gosschalk, at least 10 of the top 50 charities have already given their tacit support to the initiative, and backing will be sought from the rest throughout April. The press officer will be hired once funding has been secured from enough charities.

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