In the wake of Brooks Newmarks comments about charities and knitting, Tim Harrison and Cian Murphy explore how MPs and the public feel about the political role of charities.
The nfpSynergy Blog
As I’d taken a bit of a hiatus from social media this summer (the equivalent of living under a rock in 2014), it meant that it was quite a while before I heard about the ALS Ice bucket challenge. It has been active in the USA since July, but has only really taken off in the UK in recent weeks, during which there have been numerous comparisons to the no make-up selfie.
Here at nfpSynergy, we speak to a lot of people about charities. Every year, we speak to 16,000 Brits about all manner of charity questions, along with 700 young people aged 7-16. We survey a further 6,000 adults about brand, plus 5,000 across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and 1,800 more in the Republic of Ireland. We also interview 150 journalists twice a year and 150 MPs four times a year. It’s quite tiring to read in a blog, but very satisfying to look at the complete collection of data.
With all the technology we have at our disposal, what place does the humble, traditional press release have in the modern world?
Well, according to journalists, a pretty fundamental one. This may seem surprising, particularly given the movement of media content to online platforms, but of the 163 who contributed to our Journalists’ Attitudes and Awareness Monitor, 59% said they preferred the traditional press release. All of them have covered a charity story in the last six months.
I had lunch last week with 10 of the most knowledgeable, analytical and perspicacious minds in the sector, all of whom lead the research function at very successful UK charities. Away from the office and with some delicious Indian food courtesy of the Cinnamon Kitchen, we mused over the findings of the first stage of nfpSynergy’s latest analysis into media expenditure, brand awareness and income.
Last month’s revelation that alcohol charities were receiving funding from drinks companies was no great surprise. Charities always walk a tightrope on funding. If they take money from alcohol companies, people say there are influenced by them. If they take money from pharmaceutical companies, people will say there are influenced by them. The list of corporate villains from whom charities should take nothing is almost endless in the eyes of many.
When Granville Sharp found escaped slave Jonathan Strong outside his brother’s surgery for the poor in Cheapside in 1765, it was the spark that started the campaign to end the slave trade. Strong’s face had been beaten to a pulp by a pistol-whipping from his owner. Over the next two years, Sharp and his brothers restored Strong to full health. But then his owner demanded him back…
As Nick Hurd leaves the sector to applause and acclaim from sector leaders, all eyes shift to Brooks Newmark MP, the new Minister for Civil Society. Apart from a name as unconventional as his background – he was born in the United States and lived there until he was nine – little seems to be known about him as he moves into the third sector hotseat.
Charities worry quite a lot about their independence. However, they tend to worry about independence from government and interference from politicians. What our research shows is that charities are hemmed in on all sides by the perceptions and stereotypes of stakeholders. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that independence is a mirage; charities will always have a multitude of stakeholder ‘prejudices’ to take into account, rather than simply doing what is best for beneficiaries.
Most charities segment their supporters by the easy stuff. For donors, this means how recently have people given, how frequently have people given and how much they have given (or RFV in the fundraiser lexicon). For many charities this works well, but for some it is a segmentation strategy that limits the ability to understand the dynamics of their supporter base.