Viral social media campaigns were the biggest charity news stories of 2014. nfpSynergy has been monitoring these developments through our Journalists’ Attitudes & Awareness Monitor (JAAM), a survey we run twice a year with journalists who write about the third sector. We have reached three key conclusions about charity social media campaigns:
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Everyone working in a charity is looking for the next big thing that will help them deliver their mission. How can we grow? How can we get more money in? How can we do things more efficiently? Unsurprisingly, charities often look to the commercial sector to learn lessons and see what can be useful. But, but, but… I can’t help thinking that sometimes we look to the commercial sector for an answer when we shouldn’t.
Your staff are on the front line of portraying your organisation’s vision, values and messages. To illustrate how important and successful this can be, below are some great examples of how one employee's actions can potentially have a big impact on your brand, highlighted at a great fringe session at IOF Scotland recently (‘The Little Things’ - @rachel_hunny).
Charities face a challenging political environment in Northern Ireland today. As a research consultancy with a specialism in political monitoring, we wanted to sponsor the ‘Leading on Political Impact’ award at the C03 Leadership Conference this year. In our research, we have seen lots of charities demonstrating best practice in this field and we consider this award recognition of their good work.
As the general election gets closer, sector bodies are publishing their manifestos and buffing up their policy requests. Sector leaders jostle to have the minister for Civil Society on speed dial and speaking at their events. As a sector, we do a good job of fawning over politicians and behaving like government policies are all that matters for the sector’s future.
All the evidence, however, points to the opposite. Politicians have had barely any positive impact on the shape of the sector over the last decade.
A huge amount of time and energy have gone into the Lobbying Act. Debates in parliament; debates within the sector; individuals within charities interpreting the Act; individuals within charities discussing it with their colleagues, trustees and senior management; reviews by Commissions into its impact; seminars and tutorials provided by consultants. The list goes on.
I clicked onto Third Sector’s website last week to read the charity news. It’s a sad sign of the times that two of the first three stories were damaging for the sector. Even sadder was that they were both about fraud. It’s not unusual. I began to think, is the charity sector just more vulnerable to theft? Possibly, possibly not. I really don’t think it matters whether it is or not. And here’s why.
Since starting as a Research Assistant at nfpSynergy a little over three months ago, I've been surprised at how shallow my understanding of the charity sector was. Before coming here I volunteered as a researcher at a very small NGO. At the time, I thought that working on a project proposal and dealing with grant applications gave me some idea of the challenges that charities face, but after a few months of working on our Monitors and reports I've realised that the charity sector is far more complex than I knew.
Lots of charities condemn government spending cuts. The list of things that charities say are threatened by spending cuts is almost endless and in many cases they are right. While charities are doing that, many politicians call for, or promote, tax cuts. If both of these wishes were granted, the government would spend more and earn less. However, spending more and taxing less is no way to plug the hole in the nation’s finances. The government already spends far more than it earns and that’s why we have a deficit.
It has been another full and fulfilling year at nfpSynergy, providing research to support a diverse range of charities with a diverse range of needs. Naturally, many of these needs reflect the ongoing climate of a competitive and relatively austere market place. In light of this, how can charities best respond? Essentially, how can they deliver more with less?