The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has published a guide advising charities on how they should handle questions concerning subjects such as aggressive fundraising and senior pay.
The free guide, called Telling a Better Story About Charities, includes advice on what charities should do to restore public trust, such as being transparent and using simple language rather than management-speak.
The umbrella body worked with the research agency BritainThinks to uncover key themes in the way charities work that appeal to the public and find out how to present them most positively.
The guide includes advice on how to answer questions such as "why do charities have volunteers at the same time as paying big salaries to staff?" and "why do charities hound people for money, particularly vulnerable groups like the elderly?"
It says media coverage has confirmed the public’s concerns about charities, not created them.
The guide includes suggestions for words and terms that charities should avoid when communicating with the public, such as "paid staff".
The phrase "professional expertise" is preferable, it says, because it shows that charities employ staff without having to mention salaries and helps to show charities as experts in what they do.
The guide also says: "It’s worth underlining that actions speak louder than words, and the advice in this guide is intended to be complementary to taking clear steps to address issues the public are concerned about, not an alternative to doing so.
"Communications alone are not enough – we need to ‘show, not tell’ the public that we take their concerns seriously."