23 February, 2012
In a tough funding climate, many charities are being forced to focus their communications efforts on protecting current funding arrangements, making the case for future funding decisions, and seeking out new income streams. But this necessary shift can trigger some important and often difficult conversations, particularly if there is a conflict between appealing to funders, and representing the best interests of those you work to support.
How, for instance, can you work on building connections with government departments on the one hand, while criticising elements of that same department’s policy on the other? Can you forge a partnership with a major corporate brand to secure valuable unrestricted funding, whilst staying true to the principles at the heart of your organisation?
The answers to these questions are never going to be straightforward, but there are ways to resolve the tensions posed. By focusing on constructive criticism, responsible and reasonable funders should see value in your stance, rather than dismissing you as a thorn in their side. Make sure you are proposing solutions, not just highlighting problems, and that your arguments have real credibility.
Decisions on these issues need to be reached through careful and collaborative dialogue. They are not things to be addressed and concluded upon after a snatched conversation behind closed doors. They are certainly not decisions that should be confined to the communications team. Rather, you should take time to seek input from a wide range of perspectives across the organisation – people working on the frontline, volunteers, senior management and of course trustees. Whatever you decide, you’ll need to have their support and buy-in.