NfpSynergy calls for the creation of a cross-sector taskforce to improve public trust

A paper by the consultancy, sent to Baroness Stowell, the new chair of the Charity Commission, says the sector must be more prepared for media scrutiny, defend top executive pay and make accounts more understandable

The public: trust in charities is low
The public: trust in charities is low

The research consultancy nfpSynergy has called for the creation of a cross-sector taskforce that would aim to improve public trust in charities.

The organisation also says that the sector must be more prepared to face media scrutiny, defend chief executive pay and improve the ease with which their accounts can be understood if public trust in charities is to be increased.

Giving her first public speech since becoming chair of the Charity Commission, Baroness Stowell pledged last week that the regulator would play a major role in helping to rebuild trust in the charity sector.

A paper sent by nfpSynergy to Stowell on how trust might be improved says the commission would not be able to increase public trust in charities by itself and it would require a "multi-party, multi-faceted effort".

It says the proposed taskforce should be chaired by Stowell and be prepared to undertake all the activities that would increase trust and tackle all the issues that drive public trust down.

"To guide this process, we need to get sector bodies, fundraisers, researchers, influencers, comms directors, chief executives and more round the table to coordinate and drive activity," says nfpSynergy’s paper.

It says the Understanding Charities Group started the process, "but the initiative has not progressed much since Acevo and the NCVO took it over".

The paper says charities must be prepared to "explain, explain, explain why paying the chief executives of our largest charities £125,000 a year is a bargain, and why charities have to invest in fundraising to raise money and deliver more for their cause".

It says the sector must create a better way for the public to understand charities’ performance and make the Charity Commission and what it does better known.

"Our research with donors shows that they are reassured about charities when they hear more about the work of the Charity Commission and even its existence," the paper says. "So making the Charity Commission better known is a key way that we can reassure donors – and eminently practical."

It says the sector must "identify and address the Achilles’ heels we know about", including "the woeful state of charity accounts, which are too long and full of jargon to be explicable to all but accountants or the most dedicated of donors", and a looming pensions crisis.

The report says charities are far too reluctant to examine the practices that need reform and turn a blind eye to many of the sector’s failings, which are addressed only if a media storm ensues, such as the Olive Cooke affair.

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