I was really annoyed to read that new Charity Commission Chair, Baroness Powell, thinks people trust charities no more than they trust the average stranger they meet on the street.
I was even more annoyed that she said it in her first major speech in the role, and at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual conference.
Oh dear. Where to start?
Words matter, and those are damaging words.
It was an odd choice to rallying her sector colleagues to perform better by telling them just how badly they are doing and how ill thought of they are.
Trust is not a stick to beat charities with. It’s a carrot that should be dangled. The reward for a job well done and a charity well run. The ultimate prize.
But she chose the stick. Not very motivational, and sadly another ‘good headline’ about how ‘bad’ charities are.
There’s also the small matter of the truth.
SCVO’s recent trust research found that 73% of people in Scotland trust charities. It’s slightly less south of the border at 61%, but trust levels are impressive overall in the UK, and certainly nothing to be embarrassed about in an age where people are generally less trusting as a rule.
I always try to assume the best in people, so I’m going to give Baroness Powell the benefit of the doubt and say this was probably just a misjudged, throwaway line in an otherwise balanced speech.
Such a shame because what people in power say matters.
I’m not denying that charities who let the sector down need dealt with but it’s so important to remember that the majority of charities are run well and do amazing work. They need to be inspired and motivated to keep striving for the best.
They need a carrot, not a stick.
SCVO is running the ‘I Love Charity’ campaign, to inspire trust in charities by supporting good governance within organisations to ensure they are well run, open and transparent, and to encourage charities to work harder at promoting the positive impact of their work.