A charity is nothing without its values. Having a strong and easily communicable set of values builds trust between a charity and its supporters, giving employees, volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries the confidence that the organisation is acting ethically and in their best interests. Most importantly, it shows that the money they raise is going to a good home.
Crucially, more than half of the UK public cited operating to a high ethical standard as important for charities, second only to ensuring that a high proportion of the money it raises goes to those it’s trying to help.
However, values should not just be a box ticking exercise. They are not a set of ideals to be conveniently wheeled out and put up on a website and never looked at again. They should be permanently embedded all the way through an organisation and should be reflected in everything they do, and equally importantly, everyone they work with.
This includes suppliers. If a supplier producing your charity merchandise, for example, is behaving poorly, i.e. not paying its workers fairly or providing unsafe working conditions – this can have a serious negative impact on your reputation.
Because charities are expected to operate at the highest standards there is higher scrutiny on what they do and who they work with. If people believe you are not doing your due diligence when working with others, they may start to question not only your competency, but also your values too.
Think of it as guilt by association. If one of your suppliers is found to behaving unethically, how does this reflect on your organisation?
Lead with your values
The best way to demonstrate your commitment to your values is to be clear about them from the outset.
This means checking the time consuming and boring legal things, like doing due diligence and filling out compliance forms, but it also means putting your values on the table early so that they are at the heart of everything that comes next.
Communicating your values at the very beginning of the relationship will help suppliers see what is important to you and vice versa. And having clarity over your values also gives you a handy checklist to see if a new supplier lives up to them.
Whilst cost-efficiency will always be key, having clear values keeps things like sustainability and diversity very much on the table too.
Once you have all that information, keep it in one, easily accessible place. This links to transparency – if you have all the information, you can be aware of any risks and you can manage them effectively.
Transparency requires charities to know what is happening with those they work with and to communicate this with everyone with and without the organisation. This helps them hold themselves accountable and demonstrates a commitment to continue doing so in the future.
This means keeping track of your supplier and associated documents too – values can change over time and it’s good to keep an eye on whether people are keeping to them. Cloud procurement tools like oboloo can help ensure they are continually compliant by notifying you when documents need to be provided or updated.
Open yourself up
Internal procedures are all well and good but what about everything else? Values cannot help charities build trust if they keep everything to themselves. They must also be transparent.
Marie Curie for example has a dedicated page on its website talking about the ethical issues and social responsibility within supply chains. In it, the charity outlines its policies that all charity staff and suppliers must follow, from promoting equality in the workforce to protecting the environment.
By being transparent, Marie Curie demonstrates its responsibility for upholding these policies, and shares the expectation with those it works with too.
There are many different strategies and compliance issues to take into account when it comes to reporting but for the charity sector, where trust is a currency, honesty is always the best policy.
In the charity sector, values are what keep us going. To help others, charities must first be true to themselves.
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