Karl Wilding, NCVO’s Director of Public Policy, on the importance of transparency in charity work
It might sound strange that someone working for the largest national umbrella body for charities in England thinks that ‘charity’ is not only our strength, but also our weakness. But in what has been a period of generally negative coverage in the national press, I’ve come to the conclusion that those working in or with charities have failed to get across just how modern charity works, who we work for and, most of all, why we are different to business or government. And because we’ve failed to help the public understand practices such as paying staff, campaigning to change government policy, or earning money from social enterprise, we find ourselves the subject of anger or disillusionment from people who thought we were something else. People who think that the word 'charity' is just about volunteers, or rattling tins.
“Charity is about asking the people with resources to give to or share them with those that don’t.”Karl Wilding, NCVO
Charity is about volunteering. Charity is about asking the people with resources to give to or share them with those that don’t. But charity has changed from some of the perceptions people have, which are based on another time and another place. Charity is also different from some of the misconceptions that have been created recently.
So, those of us who care deeply about charity, and not just charities, need to show and tell the public how modern charities make a difference every day. We need to remind people – and at times ourselves – that we are just the vehicles by which people try to change the world for the better. We need to show that charity is for the public benefit and not private gain and we are different from business even if we adopt some of their tools. And we have to show that charity is connected by a set of common values and practices: speaking for those with no voice and leaving no one behind, even if the state or the market has.
Charity is one of this country’s biggest strengths. The positive difference charity makes is one of its biggest secrets. Let’s hope that the #CharityIs campaign is one of the ways we can change that.
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