Watchdog says third sector needs to improve standards of reporting

The Charity Commission recently reported that too many charities were “falling short” when it came to sharing their work in annual reports. The Commission reviewed 100 randomly selected reports and found that less than three quarters were of an “acceptable quality”.

Perhaps explaining why a gold standard remained so elusive, the Government watchdog also found that just 51% of charities understand what is required of them when reporting the public benefit of their work (something that differs depending on the size of the charity). Tellingly, the most common reason cited for inadequate reporting was that reports “did not explain the charitable activities the charity had carried out.”

Recent events have seen a huge dip in public trust for charities and people understandably want to see real-world results. While an annual report can still be a golden opportunity to prove a charity’s work is worth supporting, today we have an incredible range of comms tools at our disposal to share stories with the public. Does the Charity Commission believe that an annual report is the most effective means of doing this?

Whatever role it plays in your comms mix, it sounds simple enough – an annual report is a chance to demonstrate impact. We like to think less summary, more ‘so what?’ But perhaps some of the challenges come from a perceived lack of value or uses for the annual report. In a time-poor sector, how much resource can justifiably be poured into one document?

An annual report doesn’t have to be a compliance exercise. It doesn’t have to live and die on a website. The balance of simple stats to demonstrate the overall effectiveness of a charity alongside case studies that show individual human, environmental or other impact can resonate deeply with readers.

Consider some of the benefits of putting wider communications objectives at the centre of a compelling report:

  • A good PR professional can select the stories told to demonstrate impact in a report and maximise them through media, pinpointing the most suitable home for beneficiary stories
  • Campaigners can use annual report findings as a catalyst – building a case for change identified by the legacy of that years’ work
  • Service marketing strategies can stem from a report – are some services in need of more promotion or uptake than others?
  • Annual reports can provide ample social content – infographics, interactive segments, animations and short video interviews can bring impact to life
  • They can win awards! Start the job with an award in mind to keep innovation levels high.

By seeing an annual report as a springboard to wider publicity, we change the way it is approached as a project, making it work harder for stakeholders and adding value to the whole communications mix. So much incredible work goes on in the charity sector every year – it’s time to make sure everyone knows about it.

Written by Beth Andlaw
Vice-Chair of the PRCA Charity and Not-for-Profit Group
Barley Communications Associate

Guest blog – Making Veteran Homelessness a thing of the past

Getting the system right is vital. Identifying those people who may struggle and making sure they get the right advice is critical

Crisis issued a report setting out their plans to make homelessness ‘a thing of the past.’ Reducing homelessness to zero is absolutely the right objective and one we share in the veterans’ sector. We are also optimistic that it can be done.

The question is how? Every year over 1,000 ex-service personnel need urgent support to find accommodation – that’s a lot of lives, a lot of associated mental health problems, a lot of affected families and friends. There are all sorts of reasons why former members of the Armed Forces end up being homeless. For Alan the trigger was relationship breakdown, for Brian it was unemployment and lack of money, for Ian it was a combination of living with PTSD and his erratic behaviour, which made his relationship untenable.

All three of these gentlemen have a home now. But they and many others have spent time being homeless that could have been avoided. Time spent living under a bridge by the River Thames, looking in bins for food, sofa surfing.

Working in partnership with other organisations which provide accommodation for ex-servicemen and women – we developed a Call to Action to highlight the key issues that need addressing if we are to avoid more people like Alan, Brian and Ian being homeless:

  • The Ministry of Defence needs to ensure that every single service leaver, whatever their circumstances, is asked about their housing options after service. Those identified of being at risk of homelessness should be given bespoke advice.
  • All Local Authorities and other agencies in the ‘civilian’ sphere must establish if a person seeking housing support is a veteran and then have a clear plan to respond to the veterans they identify.
  • The signs are positive. The Ministry of Defence is developing a new veterans’ strategy and we are working with the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Tobias Ellwood MP, to ensure tackling homelessness is included.

We are also taking some practical steps, such as introducing the Veterans Housing Advice service telephone support for homeless Veterans and launching a vacancies dashboard that lists all the available properties across the country that have been ring-fenced for Veterans.

Getting the system right is vital. Identifying those people who may struggle and making sure they get the right advice is critical.

But we also have to address the actual shortage of affordable social housing for Veterans. Research by the University of York identified that the garrison town of Aldershot faces a specific shortage of housing for Veterans and that is why I am so pleased that this week we have opened 34 new homes in the town for Veterans to rent. We are working to ensure that anyone who serves their country has an appropriate place to live – a place to call home where they can rebuild their lives.

Veteran Craig Wheatley served in the Army for 11 years and is due to move into his new home. He told me that he’s ready for the next step, to move into his own flat and that without help he didn’t know where he’d be today. A new flat gives Craig a fresh opportunity for the future.

The new homes, to be opened by Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, are called Centenary Lodge to mark 100 years from the end of World War One – and 100 years since our organisation was formed. The project has taken us a step closer to reducing homelessness to zero and enabling more Veterans to lead fulfilling and independent lives. I hope it will take a lot less than 100 years before we have enough suitable homes for all the Veterans who need them.

You can support the campaign to reduce homelessness to zero by signing up here. This blog can also be found on Huffington Post.

Guest blog from Ed Tytherleigh, Chief Executive of Veterans’ charity, Stoll

Borough Market

Borough Market is London’s oldest food market, having been established over 1,000 years ago.  Today it is a vibrant, diverse market renowned for its exceptional produce, which is run as a charity for the benefit of the community.

Borough Market puts sustainability at the heart of its operations and Barley was appointed in July 2017 to support with sustainability communications. Our first goal was to raise awareness about the new drinking water fountains in Borough Market, alongside an announcement of the Market’s intention to go plastic-free over the next six months. The extensive media coverage included The Guardian, i, Sun, Metro, Telegraph and Evening Standard, BBC London, ITV London and London Live.  Borough Market has since been cited as an example to follow in follow up pieces in The Guardian, Refinery 29, Lonely Planet News, Scotland on Sunday and Mail Online.

[notebox]Borough Market is London’s oldest food market, having been established over 1,000 years ago.[/notebox]