How Do You React To Charity Sector Scandals?

There are 3 types of events that will cause your donor cancellations to spike: organisation, sector, and national/global.

Organisational events are things like your CEO saying something stupid or you sending out a really bad mailing. Something that affects only your organisation.

National and global events affect everyone, not just charities. For example, if the Government announces a tough budget or there’s a global catastrophe. Similarly, every January everyone sees a spike.

What we have going on right now is a ‘sector’ event: the Central Remedial Clinic “used charity money to top up senior staff salaries” above what was agreed, and above what was implied to the public. There’s more coming out and more questions to be asked – so I’m parking my thoughts for another blog post.

These sector events affect every charity. How is your organisation reacting to this scandal? And how do you react and prepare for future organisation, sector and global events?

There’s no doubt your donors – individuals and companies – are trying to decide whether you’re one of the good ones or bad ones. And there’s no guarantee they’ll be rational. For many people charities are interchangeable and, unfortunately, some people think ‘a bad charity’ means ‘charities are bad’.

The hospital foundations have started to react. Beaumont Hospital Foundation reacted quickly going as far as to take a newspaper ad in the Irish Independent. Similarly, Mercy Hospital and CMRF both quickly released statements. Irish Cancer Society released a super transparent Questions & Answers.

Central Remedial Clinic are currently giving a lesson in how not to react. Their statement was patchy, their silence is worrying. And they are getting absolutely battered.

Perhaps most impressive was Jack & Jill Foundation who came out quickly on their website, in on-line news, as well as all over the radio. Their CEO used it as another opportunity to publish his salary and to justify it. He thanked his donors. He appealed for support. The response has been, for the most part, positive. Jonathan Irwin’s €90k could easily have been criticised if it was presented as part of a witch-hunt, but they’re presenting it on their terms. (I just wish they’d publish their accounts on their website).

Transparency is key. There should be no surprises.

Wherever you are spending your income, you should be able to proudly stand by and broadcast to the world. “This expense is absolutely the best thing we can do right now to make the world a better place.”

And if it’s not, why not?

Regardless of your distance from the CRC the scandal will probably affect your organisation. So what are you going to do about it?

This won’t be the last spike in cancellations you’ll see. There will be another recession. There will be another scandal. There will be another January (check your calendar).

You can’t always predict when these spikes are going to happen. But you can predict how you’re going to react.


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