Addressing the NCVO conference’s delegates yesterday (16 April), Baroness Stowell said the Commission would publish its new strategic plan in the summer with the fundamental aim of the Commission “to help rebuild trust in charities as vehicles for charitable endeavour.”
The Commission’s job, she said, was not to represent charities to the public, but to represent the public interest to the sector, to help them understand what people expect and to help charities respond.
Public trust in charities has seen a decline, she said, and “people now trust charities no more than they trust the average stranger they meet on the street”. As such, Stowell said the Commission needed not just to investigate when things go wrong but to “help make sure charities get it right before things can go wrong.”
She said that public expectations of charities were higher than of big businesses because charities exist to do good so when this purpose is undermined by misconduct or other failures in a charity, people feel “appalled” and “betrayed”.
It is no surprise then that the public want greater transparency from charities, she added, with this demand for information more about seeking proof that charities are what they say they are in terms of standards of competence and of conduct and behaviour.
Baroness Stowell also said she welcomed the NCVO’s decision to ask Dame Mary Marsh to develop a code of conduct for safeguarding in charities, saying that:
“The public want to be able to trust that, no matter how you slice a charity, what you’ll find is a relentless focus on its charitable purpose. And that means demonstrating that the way charities prioritise, behave and conduct themselves is focussed solely on delivering the right results for the people they say they support.”
However, she concluded, she was confident that charities could rebuild public trust, and that she was looking forward to working with the sector, not as an adversary or a friend but as its “partner in a shared, vital mission to rebuild public trust in what charity does and has the real potential to help our society achieve.”
Baroness Stowell took up the post of Chair of the Charity Commission last month.
Main image: Baroness Stowell. Crown Copyright.
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