Charities have failed to understand and react to increasing community expectations placed on them, according to a panel discussion on declining trust in the not-for-profit sector.
Paul Ronalds, the CEO of Save the Children Australia, and Health Justice Australia CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, took part in a panel discussion at The Australian Governance Summit on Thursday.
Examining an erosion of trust in the NFP sector in wake of recent charity scandals, Boyd-Caine said findings from the latest Edelman Trust Barometer threw up a number of challenges for the sector.
“The Edelman findings showed a decline in institutional trust, but an increase in the trust of individuals, often from the same institutions. So while trust in the media may have declined, trust in journalists has increased,” Boyd-Caine said.
“I think that creates a real challenge for us in the not-for-profit sector. Does that mean that investing in your profile through communications and messaging is going to be a better guarantee of securing the support that you want for your work, rather than demonstrating effectiveness?
“It [may mean] there’s a risk in the not-for-profit sector around celebrity culture and particularly how we shape and define our leadership.”
Boyd-Caine said this should lead to “a mature discussion about what it takes to be effective”.
“In the US [the discussion is] about the overhead mix and the criticism that charities are spending too much on their organisational capacity,” she said.
“This is a sector whose greatest value comes from the workers and the people in it. If we’re not supporting and supervising and developing these workers [to] ensure their effectiveness, then we’re not doing our jobs.
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