Monday, 10 August 2009


Awake at 5.00 am. Torture. I am not an early person; indeed was amazed that it was actually light at that hour. I was on "The Today" programme for the 6.50 slot. This is Radio 4 's finest programme and I am an avid listener so its a real privilege to be asked on for an interview. ACEVO has published the results of a YouGov poll which shows there is a big gap in perception between what the public think of charities and the reality of today's dynamic and growing third sector. As we are one of the country's most trusted institution we cannot afford to allow such misconceptions to persist.

The Edelman Trust barometer, which records levels of public trust, reveals that charities are among the groups the public trust the most, second only to doctors.

According to our research, high numbers of respondents are unaware of the number and size of charities or have any idea of their income, expenditure and funding. The research also shows low public understanding of even basic facts, including what kinds of organisations have charity status and which do not.

Public trust in a sector not fully understood by that public is not sustainable.

People give to organisations they trust so they need to know how to separate the myths from the information that matters; does that charity make a difference for those it exists to help? Charities need to be more honest with the public about what they do so the public can make informed decisions.

Difficult economic conditions have led to a fall in charity income and an increased demand for their services. We have also witnessed the impact that scandal wreaks on the standing of institutions with confidence in banks and our elected representatives plummeting.

Our sector is different, but we cannot be complacent. Charities continued high regard depends on our raising public awareness.

For this reason, ACEVO is leading a coalition of 240 charities to draw up a ‘transparency manifesto’ which it will be urging all charities to sign . We need to see charities explaining what they do and the difference they make. Not apologising for overheads but explaining why they are vital. Explaining the added value of our work and how it adds to the economy and society.

We have nothing to be afraid of – we have a great story to tell. We are a diverse and growing sector that is, necessarily, increasingly professional and commercial. Charities have grown in size to better meet the big challenges of society's ills. we are proud of our many achievements and want to share them with the people on whose esteem and generosity we rely. And we want Government to better understand our growing role.

People argue that a more professional and bigger sector is dangerous. But just as Tesco grew because it met customer needs so the third sector has grown ; to better provide the key services and support people and communities need. And just because you are poor or elderly you still deserve the best quality service. Being efficient and effective is what our clients and beneficiaries deserve.

So we aim to be loud and proud about our growth and reach. Employing more staff than the banks. A turnover bigger than the car industry and farming. Delivering major public services. Making a difference. its a record that as a sector we need to trumpet- not just the individual achievements of a particular charity, but the third sector as a whole.

So ACEVO will work with the Impact Coalition to raise public awareness and get the third sector to tell its story more loudly.

I did the interview with Ed Sturton. A good crack at explaining what we are trying to achieve. After I get a range of texts and emails from the most unlikely listeners! A member listening in on the M2. Someone who informs me my dulcet tones awoke them in bed. The verdict so far is good.

I also bump into two old friends in the studio; Hilary Benn MP and Chris Huhne MP. They are not talking about charity awareness - but I get the chance to fill them in!

Then it's off to breakfast at the Cinnamon Club (a very lovely Bombay scrambled egg) and then its back to reality as I sit in eye casualty at St Thomas'. I had my eye stitches out on Friday and so have some more eye drops, which I promptly leave in Charlbury. And it isn't just a simple matter of getting another bottle. Oh no. I have to go through the whole procedure of being seen again. So I sit and wait. A humbling reminder that I might have been on "Today" but that ain't worth a jot here!

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