It is undeniable that this is an immensely difficult time for all charities. During this challenging and unprecedented time, it is imperative that charities do not let their key messages get lost in a news agenda dominated by one story – COVID 19.
The impact on charities will vary and very much depends on the specific sectors in which they operate, in addition to how they raise their income.
While an art or culture charity may be hit by a drop in visitors and ticket sales, a social care and health charity may be significantly impacted by a team who can no longer physically come into work or carry out their duties remotely. Every charity will have a different experience – some will fare better than others. It is important to recognise this unfortunate reality.
There are, however, several ways in which charities can ensure that their messages do not become neglected by a media landscape dominated by one major story. These messages should aim to let people know that – in whatever way possible and as best they can – they are continuing to provide the vital services that they do.
It is positive to see that many charities have already rightly acknowledged the effects of the pandemic and what this could mean for their beneficiaries. There are, however, others that still have not. Trust and leadership are very much the fulcrum of any successful charity and their supporters will appreciate honesty during this volatile time.
What’s more, when you are experts in the services that you provide and have a commendable track-record for the way in which those services are delivered, it is important to reassure those who need you and those who support you. The onus is on charities to explain effectively how the disruption affects them – both good and bad – and how they are adapting accordingly. Failure to do this could result in reputational damage.
Of course, the inexorable financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is on the mind of most charities – in much the same way that it is for businesses across the globe. However, it is vital not to overlook the people without whom they would not exist. Beneficiaries stand to lose the most.
Amidst all the chaos, COVID-19 has highlighted exactly why charities are needed and how invaluable the work that they do is. Charities must therefore ensure that this message is communicated widely, as they focus on how they can continue to provide their services with as little disruption as possible.
As PR consultants, we understand that this is easier said than done. We appreciate the unabating pressure that many organisations are feeling at this moment in time, as they do their best to navigate uncharted waters.
The prime question that many charities will therefore ask is as follows: how do we continue to engage with our beneficiaries, supporters and key stakeholders?
The answer for many: be visible.
This applies to charities regardless of the sectors in which they operate. For example, this global pandemic has forced the majority of charitable organisations to impose a near total reliance on digital communications. It is important for them to connect and engage people remotely by harnessing the power of technology and ensuring regular communication via digital means, whether that be on social media, via their website or through the online news agenda.
As the situation develops, charities may need to use more effective and urgent ways to communicate their messages. The most important thing, however, is for them to ensure that they continue to do so regularly.
This is not going to be easy. However, we know – now more than ever – how important charities are to society. We must protect them.
(Originally published by INFLUENCE on 14 April 2020)