Carys Mair Thomas is a consultant specialising in marketing and communications, who shares her expertise with many of our grantees through our Enhance Programme. In this blog she shares what’s on her wish list for the third sector in 2019.
2018 has been a challenging and tumultuous year for the sector. In truth, it’s been that way for the past decade, if not longer, but certainly since the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. It’s obviously resulted in less money, but also extraordinary social disruption, including the rise in far-right politics, here in the UK, in Europe and across the world.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit – and all the uncertainty wrapped up in that particular gift – is something I would like to return to sender, unopened. Obviously, having not yet left the EU, we’re waiting to experience its full force, but in the past two and a half years we’ve contended with a plummeting pound and spikes in hate crime.
We need to start an honest conversation, and ask the communities we serve what works, and what doesn’t.
The outlook is pretty bleak. And more so when you consider that a recent Civil Society Futures inquiry report, published in November, suggests we’re failing, as a sector, to respond appropriately to these social changes and are often disconnected from the communities we’re supposed to be serving. The Charity Commission also announced earlier this year that public trust in charities is now at its lowest ever.
So, first on my Christmas list is for all of us to resist falling into a pit of anxiety, reconnect with our grassroots, and find our fearlessness. I want my clients, mostly small charities in Wales and Ireland, to believe passionately in the advocacy and services they deliver, and to be as bold as they dare in the scrutiny of their own work.
But my greatest wish is for the sector to start speaking its mind. Too many of us tiptoe around issues affecting our beneficiaries, because we don’t want to be perceived as biting the hand that feeds us.
We need to start an honest conversation, and ask the communities we serve what works, and what doesn’t. This is not about sustaining the sector for its own sake, but for maintaining and hopefully growing the vital contributions it makes every day, so that we may ultimately persuade the public that we are worth their time and investment.
Finding our innate curiosity for the new and innovative is also on my Christmas list. For example, the sector’s funding is almost certainly going to be slashed, and it’s crucial we explore new ways of complementary income. Whether it’s cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, impact investment or crowdfunding, we need to explore them, if only to reject them.
We need to find our voice again, and the authentic voice of our communities. That would be the ultimate gift this Christmas.
But my greatest wish is for the sector to start speaking its mind. Too many of us tiptoe around issues affecting our beneficiaries, because we don’t want to be perceived as biting the hand that feeds us. Or we turn up for media opportunities, and allow beneficiaries’ stories to be devalued in the name of ‘balance’. I think it’s time we stop doing this to ourselves.
In short, we need to find our voice again, and the authentic voice of our communities. That would be the ultimate gift this Christmas.