R2R Blog: What Do People See When They Picture Charities? And How Can We Change It?

So far, 2018 has been a difficult year for the charity sector. The behaviour of the few has been extremely damaging for the many. The President’s Club, Oxfam in Haiti and the relentless attacks on foreign aid from certain strands of press and government have added considerable (and, in two of the above three cases, entirely justified) anger to the traditional complaints of charity CEO earnings, ‘chuggers’ and the use of millionaire celebrities to ask the public for donations.

Ask people what they think of when you mention ‘charities’ right now, and the answer is not likely to be pretty. Just a cursory glance at social media comments – admittedly the place where rational thought and behaviour often goes to die – reveals a huge amount of distrust and dissatisfaction.

In the wake of the Haiti scandal, Oxfam lost 7,000 monthly donations and government financial support is hanging by a thread. Whilst this reaction is understandable, ultimately it is those who need help and support the most who will miss out.

Aid workers not exploiting vulnerable people in the places they visit comes some way below the bare minimum in terms of expectations, but in general charities – and those who work and volunteer for them – are held to a higher standard. This is something we need to accept, own and live up to. The argument that the behaviour of senior executives from the private sector would never hit the headlines is irrelevant – and frankly untrue in a like-for-like comparison.

In the modern media landscape, negative news leads. The actions of a few senior figures swamps the thousands upon thousands of positive stories from the sector. We can sit and grumble about how unfair this is (whether it is or not is a topic for another day), or we can get up and shout about the people who represent the true nature of charity.

At Room to Reward, we are fortunate to read and hear incredible stories every day. All over the U.K, there are ordinary people doing extraordinary things, making a real difference to the lives of those in need and making the world a better place.

We are closing in on 200 amazing staff and volunteers who have been nominated for a short hotel break. Their stories are moving, inspiring, uplifting and any other positive adjective you can think of. We profiled just a handful of them in this video:

Margaret, Jason, Daphne, Charles, Alan, Beryl, Sarah, Mandy and the other 190-odd Hidden Heroes we have been privileged to read embody what charities are (or should be) about.

They represent not only the best of the sector, but the best of humanity. These are the people we should celebrate. These are the people we should shout about. These are the people we should picture when we think of charities.