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A cagey PR strategy can be counter-productive

I’ve never come across a business unwilling to boast about its corporate responsibility efforts. My inbox is stuffed with press releases from companies about the epic bike rides, marathons, mountain ascents and trips deep into the developing world that their employees have undertaken in aid of their charity of the year.

Sometimes, the PR agencies hired to produce these releases overlook some of the more basic details of the partnership. As they get carried away with business jargon and PR fluff, they can forget to include essential stuff like how much was raised and how. But they are usually more than happy to go and find out the fundamentals needed for a news story – the who, what, where, when, why and how –  even though they might not know the answers at first and it can take a while to get them.

Please don’t tell me what day, week or month it is

I was recently invited to attend a seminar organised by CharityComms called “Connect With The Media”, where I was asked to be part of a panel of journalists answering questions from an audience made up of charity communications professionals.

I started off by asking the delegates to define ‘news’. I felt this was a useful starting point because, although it sounds easy, what is it in essence? For me it has three key ingredients: It’s new, it’s compelling (or affects a lot of people) and it happened inside the news cycle of the publication you are pitching. 

CAF’s estimates on the potential increase in Gift Aid are wildly unrealistic

The Charities Aid Foundation proposed, in the wake of yesterday’s Budget, that the suggested Gift Aid reform could raise more than £700m for the sector. They’ve produced some detailed calculations to support this thesis.

But I’m not sure they’re right.

This year’s Budget is more middle of the road

Every year, when the Chancellor stands up to speak, you get a sense of a set of dice settling in the cup. Is this going be a good Budget for the voluntary sector? Because despite all the predictions and expectations, it’s pretty much down to a dice roll whether a Budget turns out well.

Capping charity admin costs is a very bad idea

In the last week, from two very different sources, we’ve had proposals that the charity sector should keep itself to a minimum level of administration costs.

The first came from the philanthropist Gina Miller, who’s said the sector should keep its admin spending to below 25 per cent. The second, a bit more worryingly, came from the MPs of the powerful Public Accounts Committee, whose chairwoman Margaret Hodge, said that Oxfam spends only 3 per cent of its income on administration, and whose committee members later suggested that other charities should be made to follow suit.

Let’s ditch workfare and introduce the Community Allowance instead

Once upon a time there was a great idea for helping the unemployed into work. It was called the Community Allowance, and various well-intentioned people spent years trying to make it happen.

The sector isn’t going to get smaller contracts, so it needs to win big ones

Last week, Chris Grayling told a meeting of the House of Commons justice committee that he wanted contracts in his department’s new payment-by-results probation scheme to be small enough for voluntary sector organisations towin them.

The Cup Trust case has worn away my sympathy for the commission

Yesterday, we heard that William Shawcross will appear before the Public Accounts Committee on 7 March to address the issue of the Cup Trust, the £176m tax avoidance scheme that it was unable to shut down.

I suspect the committee will want some explanation of what went wrong. This will be interesting, because the commission, it seems, is still adopting the stance that nothing went wrong.

Why I oppose Peter Bone’s bill on religious charities

This weekend I was invited onto the TV show The Big Questions, to talk about whether all religious institutions should be charities.

The debate came about because of a Ten Minute Rule Motion, proposed by Peter Bone MP, which proposes that all religions should be presumed to have charitable status.

The answer is more sector surveys, not less

Research in the third sector. Is it up to the job we need it to do?

This week’s magazine features an interview with Richard Harrison, director of research at the Charities Aid Foundation, who among other things has launched a strong rebuttal to critics who claim that his organisation and the NCVO have published inaccurate research.