There are plenty of reasons why people engage in charitable endeavours, whether the cause resonates with them on a personal level or they are driven to make a positive impact in the world. But how can you inspire the public to give to your cause when their trust in the sector has faltered?
Donating to charity has the power to make people feel good about themselves, but it’s not an entirely selfless act. This is why the abuse scandals in charities overseas and in the UK have been so shocking; it means the British public, as donors, have indirectly funded the abuse of the vulnerable people we are meant to be helping, whether that is abroad or on our own doorstep.
The exponential effect of a scandal
Following the recent reports of the sexual misconduct in Haiti, Oxfam lost approximately 7,000 donors. According to the Guardian, 35% of the British public regularly give to charity, but after the news of the scandal went live, 52% of these regular donors said they would be less likely to continue. As a result of the drop in donations, the vulnerable people we want to help are now victims twice over. This is an overlooked fact.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure your organisation is doing everything it can to safeguard the people you’re providing aid to. Ultimately, the more we do to protect our beneficiaries, the more likely we are to regain the public trust and ensure that our charitable efforts aren’t in vain.
Can lost confidence be restored?
At the end of 2017, The Charity Commission published its Safeguarding policy update, but how many Trustees of charities and non-profits can say that they are aware of it? And how many are compliant?
After the 2018 Safeguarding Summit this past March, UK-based charities have seen more pressure to drive up standards and agree to practical tools and protocols that protect the people the aid sector are serving. As a result, both the Charity Commission and the Department of International Development put in place enhanced safeguarding standards for organisations, which include an assessment of codes of conduct, risk management policies and how organisations identify and respond to incidents.
According to The Charity Commission policy, trustees must:
- Know their responsibilities
- Have adequate measures in place to assess and address safeguarding risks
- Have adequate safeguarding policies and procedures appropriate for their charity’s particular circumstances which reflect both the law and best practice
- Make sure that these policies and procedures are effectively implemented and regularly reviewed.
Getting safeguarding right
Earlier this year, the House of Commons International Development Committee published a paper on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the aid sector, which was understandably critical of the culture, attitude and approach towards the abuse of beneficiaries and staff. The conclusions focused on confidence in reporting and protecting those who report wrongdoing. However, there was little on prevention, and without an all-encompassing approach, the culture change demanded by the report will not be achieved.
Though it’s correct to encourage and support reports of wrongdoing, the recommendation of a global register of aid workers alone will not lead to the vital culture change that will substantially impact the current scale of exploitation and abuse.
The good news is that this situation can be resolved. Trustees can engage specialist safeguarding consultants, then promote independently developed, written and published safeguarding policies and procedures that help re-build the lost confidence.
Additionally, there are some immediate steps you can take to improve your organisation’s safeguarding policies, which include:
- Reviewing current reference systems to ensure people who have abused their power or behaved inappropriately in the past are not re-employed in the aid sector
- Working with the government to overcome legal barriers to rigorous background checks
- Ensuring a high level of awareness amongst staff and volunteers regarding safeguarding issues and their roles in protecting people from harm
What’s the next step?
Charities and Aid Organisations that take a lead on safeguarding now can really increase the effectiveness of the services they provide to their beneficiaries. Publicising and marketing the safeguarding and the effectiveness it has in dealing with abuse provides confidence to donors, positively increasing the integrity of their donations. Developing this further will lead to an increase in donors, donations, staff retention and aid effectiveness for the beneficiaries.
The use of safeguarding experts like PMB Charity Safeguarding Services that are free of compromising links to the aid sector and have experience working with vulnerable people is vital to driving the culture change. Herein lies a real opportunity for the aid sector to not only deal effectively with the sexual exploitation and abuse but also to push a complete reputational overhaul and restore the lost confidence for the donors and the beneficiaries. Find out how you can get a free safeguarding review.