“We need to be much more proactive with the positive narrative around the vital work of the third sector. It’s not about ignoring the bad; it’s about getting a balance right” – Nicola Sturgeon at The Gathering, 21 February 2018.

The media reporting of the Oxfam Scandal and the resulting coverage about charities has taught us many things. But one of the most important is that it’s shown just how fragile and how important public trust is. With 7,000 regular donations to Oxfam cancelled shortly after the revelations, people can be quick to lose faith about an organisation’s good work.

At last week’s Gathering, Nicola Sturgeon said in her opening speech that we need to be much more proactive at gathering the positive stories. At SCVO, we agree. That’s why in 2015 we set about building a platform dedicated to collecting stories from people that support, use, fundraise and volunteer for charities. That platform is called Good HQ. It’s a place where people can share their own (good and bad) experiences of charities and discover new ways to get involved in their local community.

The third sector already has a range of reporting mechanisms for members of the public to make official complaints. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) outlines the complaints procedure on their website; the first step being to make a complaint directly to an organisation or its trustees. Depending on the nature of the grievance there are additional bodies that focus on specific topics. Including the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel, the Care Inspectorate and OSCR have their own charity complaints form.

However, formal complaints aren’t the only form of feedback which helps organisations to improve. The ability to review experiences, products and services can be seen in pretty much every other sector. When’s the last time you bought or booked something – from a washing machine to a holiday – without reading a review first? This isn’t something new to the public, but it is new to the sector.

People inherently have a fear of feedback, but now is the time to embrace it. Embrace the bad with the good. Show you’re listening, that you care, and that you want to drive positive change.

The Good HQ team were at the Gathering last week. We were encouraging people to share stories about the good causes they support to help spread the #ILoveCharity vibes. One of the most frequently asked questions we got from delegates was ‘is this TripAdvisor for charities?’.

Two years ago, we shied away from that explanation. However, today, it seems like a pertinent way to describe the platform (but with lots of other additional features such as volunteering and Goodmoves jobs). And, perhaps, what the sector needs right now. A place to demonstrate the impact of your organisation’s work through the stories of those who benefit as well as showing you are open to feedback and listening to what people have to say. Good HQ is one way to show you’re committed to doing just this. All registered charities in Scotland have a page on Good HQ. You can claim your page or sign up as a good cause and show you’re committed to improving transparency and public trust in the third sector by visiting goodhq.org/signup

While you’re there consider sharing a story about a charity you care about too. Add it to Good HQ by searching for the organisation and adding your review.

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for blogs from a range of Good HQ users about how they’re using the platform to gather feedback. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please email Lauren, Good HQ Community Manager: hello@goodhq.org