Charities under the spotlight but can still deliver

Picture: Greg Macvean
Picture: Greg Macvean
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Honesty and transparency are needed admits John Heggie

The charity sector has been under the spotlight over the past few months, as the public and media have quite understandably questioned some elements of charity practice. As someone proud to work for the third sector, I am concerned about the impact the coverage may have on the public’s trust and confidence in charities.

The death of Olive Cooke, the committed and generous fundraiser from Bristol, was not directly caused by charities but the issues raised need to be looked at carefully by individual charities and the sector as a whole. We have a responsibility not only to the families we support and our staff and volunteers, but also to the people who support us, and make our work possible. Without the public’s support, Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) would not be here. The commitment and dedication of our many donors allows us to provide the only Scottish hospice service for babies, children, young people and their families. We cared for over 380 families last year thanks to our supporters, and the relationship we have with the public is at the heart of the work carried out by the fundraising and communications team. We want our supporters to know that they are a vital part of CHAS and to understand the difference their gift will make. They help families facing the most challenging and difficult of times – the death of their child. The mums, dads, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles we care for and support say that CHAS quite simply allowed them to make the most of the time they had together.

Each and every donation we receive, no matter how small or large, allows our staff at Rachel House and Robin House, and our CHAS at Home team, to do something really quite special. It enables them to provide vital care and support for the whole family during some incredibly difficult times and allows them to help create amazing memories that will live with family members forever.

Any good relationship is built on trust, and we’ve produced a Supporter Promise. It’s nothing new, rather we’ve decided to put in writing the principles that we follow with our supporters. We want them to help influence what we do and to tell us what we’re doing well or if there are things we could do better. We want to be clear and upfront with our supporters about what they can expect from us and how we will keep them informed about the impact of their gifts.

We do need to listen to, and learn from, the criticisms and complaints that are sometimes made against the sector but we also need to recognise and celebrate what the charity sector achieves. It serves some of the most vulnerable in society, providing care that would otherwise not be possible.

It’s important that the public know that the vast majority of charities really do want to develop a strong, lasting, relationship with their supporters. This is a two way interaction that’s built on honesty, transparency and trust, and on letting supporters know the simply amazing work that they make possible.

John Heggie is director of fundraising and communications at Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, the only hospice service in Scotland for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions.

For more information on CHAS or to support a fundraising event visit