Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trust and charities: getting on the front foot

Over Christmas, I caught up with lots of friends and family I hadn't seen in some time.

Twice during this period, the conversation turned to charity. Once, ignoring the fact I was sitting there (despite knowing broadly what I do for a job) and the other time because I was sitting there. In other words, friends felt they could vent with/at me knowing what I do.

Both dialogues were similar. Murmurings of "not sure which charities I could trust" to "Can't believe they waste money sending me these letters".

At the heart of both of these tirades from those close to me, was a severe lack of trust born out of two things. No real education on how charities do their work and an inherent belief that if charities spend money it must be wasteful.

So after some pretty lengthy discussions about the world we live in and the economics of fundraising, I got thinking.

Are we doing ourselves any favors or do we sit on our hands and cop this flak?

Not surprisingly, for the most part its the latter. It's reactionary. And of course is hurts us as a sector.

I turned to the web to take a peek at whether organizations help themselves either 'organically' through search (in other words, are they helping themselves with the content on their sites), and/or through paid advertising.

Here is what I found.

The first screen shot here shows what happens when I enter 'which charities should I trust?'

The answer is not much. Wikipedia references to to charitable trusts, as opposed to trusting charities ranks first. In terms of paid ads (right hand side of the page) little action, and nothing at all from industry groups promoting giving and philanthropy.

Of course you'll notice that third on the organic listing is charity watchdog Charity Navigator. That's about as much air time as they'll get here, their measures flawed and destructive as they're based solely on unfair financial measurements and not on real charitable impact.

So where are we?

I found it interesting that industry bodies, nor charities for that matter have taken the bull by the horns here? Do we not talk about why we're a trustworthy organization that is having impact? Either within the content on our site, or by paying for keywords through Google ads?

Then this, when I typed 'which charities should i donate to?'

A slightly different story here. Whilst you could argue they're different scenarios, a much more proactive approach taken with several organizations (highlighted on right hand side) bidding for these keywords either using paid ads or through their Google Grants.

The point?

There's a lot written about mistrust of many wonderful organizations in our sector. We spend a lot of time talking about industry bodies, task-forces, working groups. All aimed at sticking up for what we do. Being on the front foot.

Yet there are some perfectly good opportunities to do this, very simply, very easily. And we're missing it.

Please get on the front foot.

For more stuff on how to use Google AdWords, visit an earlier post.



Rob Daly said...

If the miners and retailers can be proactive in protecting their interests, then we as a sector should be shouting from the hills about what we do and why we do it.

Institute of Fundraising in the UK started such an initiative with their Right to Ask campaign. I am not sure how far it progressed, but definitely the right approach.

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Thanks Rob. Well said. Not enough chest thumping going on.

The conglomerate approach is the right one, but I reckon there's more we can do at a micro level, evidenced unfortunately by some simple keyword searches.

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save live"!