I chaired a conference this afternoon for the Charity Commission on how the people that benefit from charities feel about their work. Caroline Cooke introduced their new report, which showed three facts that are worrying when taken together:
- 71% of charities say that work out who to support by who walks through the door (i.e. those who identify themselves as in need)
- Only 58% of the public though feel comfortable approaching a charity for help, and
- 28% of people feel embarassed to receive help from a charity.
There was a good discussion about the challenge of stigma. Richard Smith, a member of Scope who stole the show with his presentation argued that beneficiaries benefited charities, not simply the other way round. Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, talked about how the charity was now suggesting limiting the number of service users to 50% on local boards, just so that they would be alive to the need to give ‘potential’ users a look in and not just existing users.
Some years ago, the Charity Commission showed that there is work to do to bring the best bits of consumerism to the charity sector. Only 30% of charities, for example, had some kind of complaint system. But what has changed is that there is starting to be far more information now out there, in academic and public life, about how charities perform. We don’t want charities to become companies or goodness a market, but a little information, basic rights of redress and a little less stigma has to be a recipe for improvement.