Something’s changed in the world of charity. People don’t necessarily assume the best any more. They want to know that charities have the right motives behind everything they do.
So when charities use disclaimers, it plays into the narrative that they have something to hide.
These bits of small print now feel like an increasingly big deal to supporters. But they remain a small deal to charities. Most of the time they’re familiar pieces of wording that have been there for years and just get republished published time after time. Just a piece of hygiene like the charity number.
But they aren’t neutral, or unimportant. Because to people giving you their trust (and their money) nothing is.
Take the familiar “where the need is greatest” line, usually used to unrestrict a donation. There’s so much wrapped up in it. The passive voice suggests there’s some sort of disinterested algorithm that automatically decides where the greatest need is. But there isn’t. People will decide where the money is spent. And other people will live or die depending on that decision. It’s too important to be wrapped up in such a bland and ultimately cynical phrase.
Above all, it screams ‘trust us, we know best’, and that’s not true for increasing numbers of supporters any more.
Or how about “identities have been changed”? Once again, using the passive voice implies that this has happened exclusive of human intervention. But someone has done this, for a reason. A good reason.
Right now it says ‘we’ve got a policy you don’t need to worry your little head about’. Once again, no longer true (if it ever was).
Why am I going on about small print? Because it hides a bigger point. People won’t trust charities unless charities trust people.
And it’s not about the operational decisions – the ‘what’. Rather, the WHY – a charity’s purpose – now matters more than ever. Everything has to deliver it – the brand, the channels, the touch-points, the messaging, the experience. The small print has to deliver it too.
You’re spending supporters’ money to save the most lives.
You’re changing names and pictures to keep people safe.
You’re analysing data because it can help you deliver your purpose.
Small print needs to be big print. Because if you’re doing the right things for the right reasons, you have nothing to hide.
Be proud of it.
Reuben Turner is Creative Partner at GOOD Agency.
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