This week I have seen a lot of talk about transparency and why it is important. Are you doing it in your organisation? Here’s some food for thought to help you decide whether your organisation should be adding transparency to your comms checklist.
Challenging public perceptions
Yesterday’s Guardian Voluntary’s Q&A about charity overheads and admin costs tackled the public perception of ‘wasted admin money’. It considered how we should help supporters understand that it costs money to run a charity well and that a blanket ‘we spend 10% on admin’ is not a helpful message. (How should this be is this calculated anyway – are webteam admin or are they delivering a service to beneficiaries?) The conversation turned to the cost of staff and the importance of showing value for money. Joe Saxton from nfpSynergy shared their report Fiscal education; why charities need to speak up when their staff are good value for money saying:
“Charities must remember to communicate the value of paid staff wherever possible. They also need to take every opportunity to show that economies are being made and investment is paying off, particularly in the cases of staff and overhead costs.
- Are your staff not allowed to travel first class? Shout about it.
- Has a charity shop manager used previous retail experience to increase revenue? Put it in the newsletter.
- Has your new chief executive used their experience to implement changes that make the organisation more efficient and effective, or their industry connections to raise the charity’s profile? Don’t keep it quiet.”
Interesting. In the right place, this content could work well (such as in a news story or Facebook update).
Do we all have a responsibility to talk about admin / staff costs to help change public perceptions of how charities work? How and where should we be sharing this type of content? Are supporters interested? Or would it turn them off?
This blog by Pamela Grow about email fundraising also has some interesting ideas for transparent content to give an insight into the detail of your organisation:
- Have a board member write a blurb about why they got involved
- Share a heartfelt “thank you” received from a client – or a note from a donor
- On a limited basis share challenges – but keep them on an upbeat note, noting steps you’re taking to address them.
- Share a photograph or two of a program in action
- A recent memorial or tribute gift? Share a story about the individual who inspired it
These use the everyday aspects of your organisation as content to connect with and inspire supporters. There’s lots of scope to be creative and to share some personality with your supporters here.
How often do you share news about the successes of your organisation? You probably share big news about campaign achievements but do you share the detail, the incremental steps which lead to the ‘we did it’ announcement? RNIB’s Talking Cash Machines campaign shares regular updates about the banks who have agreed to make changes so that blind people can use their ATMs and calls to action to put pressure on the non-compliant ones.
Twitter and Facebook are good for small successes but by their nature, these messages are fleeting and temporary. What do you do to aggregate these messages into something more permanent such as a web page, email or blog post?
Is it going too far to share thinking and decision making with your supporters? Most charities have a ‘How we spend your money’ type page but often with no mention of how these decisions are made. There’s never an equivalent ‘We decided not to spend your money on X because’.
- Oxfam’s weekly update – a blog giving insight into what is happening. This first one shows how the organisation is updated about Syria
- Macmillan’s policy team write a blog about what they do. Here they introduce the team’s priorities and hot drink preferences. (Thanks to @London Kirsty for sharing this)
- Zoe Amar wrote a blog post about transparency in fundraising and included a photos of a noticeboard in her local church with signs showing fundraising costs and spends.
It’s quite difficult to find good examples of organisations doing this. Do you have any to share?
Are you transparent?
The mindset for transparency is like the ‘About us’ section of your website but ‘Really About us’ rather than ‘Corporate About us’.
It’s about giving your supporters an insight into the workings of your organisation. It’s about sharing successes and challenges. It’s about showing some personality, some weakness, some enthusiasm. It’s about helping your supporters get closer to who you are and what you do, in a way that publishing your mission statement just doesn’t.