Late last year the Commission conducted research into trust and confidence in charities amongst the Northern Ireland public. The results were interesting. While trust and confidence had expectedly taken a small hit over the last year the research also gave us an indication of how people liked their charities to be.
92% of people wanted charities to be transparent, 70% preferred them when they operated locally. 49% trusted them more if they were based in Northern Ireland and 84% wanted them to be well managed. In short, accessible, local, open and well-run charities are well placed right in the sweet spot of public perception.
A charity’s online presence should demonstrate how a charity is all of these things. But how?
1. Make sure your website is easy to navigate
A website doesn’t need to cost an absolute fortune to look good these days and accessibility doesn’t cost a thing. Think carefully about all of the information you need to display about the journey of a visitor. A website where it’s easy to find what you’re looking for leaves a positive impression.
2. Show off your work!
People want to know that charities are successful in their stated aims. Do you have any case studies or even just photographs of the events the charity has run? Have any prominent local figures endorsed you? Have you won any awards? Demonstrating how your charity has fulfilled its objectives is a great way of proving how well managed and successful your charity is in the local area.
3. Prove you’re regulated
94% of the Northern Ireland public think it’s important that charities are properly regulated and displaying your registered charity number where it can be seen is a legal requirement. Our counterparts at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator recently launched a new logo for charities to display to prove that they’re registered and therefore regulated. Displaying such items lets website visitors know that the charity is ‘above board’, accountable and can be trusted.
4. Show how you’re governed
There are a surprising number of charity websites not displaying who their trustees are or how they’re governed. Explaining who your trustees are, how often they meet, what happens when the do meet (the minutes) and how the charity operates lets people see that the charity is open and the trustees are accountable.
5. Publish your accounts
Going forward, charities will have to submit their accounts to the Commission, where they will be published on our website. Charities should embrace this new era of transparency by displaying this information on their site as well.
6. Keep it current
A website that is not frequently updated leaves visitors asking questions. Is the charity still active? If it has no news then is it still functioning properly?
Staff at the Commission recently came across the website of a charity that we knew to be in receipt of public funds and still active but which had not posted any news since 2013. This gave the impression of a moribund organisation and is potentially off-putting for funders and the community at large.
7. Make it easy to do more
As well as demonstrating the work a charity does, a website should always lead the visitor to perform an action, whether it be making a donation, volunteering or just saying hello. Displaying a range of contact details is essential to retaining public trust but also ensures that it assists your charity meet its aims.
Author: Neil Wilson
Neil is the Commission’s Communications Officer.