It is widely recognised that charities are seen as ‘brands’ - as with any other brand they need to stand out and have a unique identity in order to stand apart in a crowded marketplace. The charity market is one which is saturated, and are all vying for share of wallet to ultimately drive funding and support to those most in need.
Challenges of trust and justifying spend – but what about care of its own staff and building trust
The sector faces many other challenges it has to deal with and address, while trying to drive funding. While there have been many discussions and much attention surrounding public trust and justifying spend, with consumers wanting more transparency about how their money is spent, the charity sector still faces issues of trust and transparency.
Marketers have the internal battle of justifying and showcasing the importance of funding for marketing activities, in order to promote the charity and ultimately help drive support and funding for those most in need. However, there is a significant concern as to funding for the care of their own staff, and ensuring the needs of their employees are met.
We see conversations continue around public trust and spend, but what about looking more inwards to the needs of employees who drive those organisations forward – what about the culture of trust here?
Challenges of trust - importance of trust and support from employees – marketers themselves
As the focus on mental health and wellbeing grows, it naturally raises the question as to what is currently happening within the charity sector where such issues can be heightened due to the nature of the not-for-profit sector: Do staff feel supported and have the built-in trust of being cared for?
The instability of funding, coupled with the emotional attachment associated with not-for -profit organisations, can leave employees in vulnerable positions. The nature of not-for-profit work means they aren’t jobs as much as life choices, and often employees face emotionally challenging situations from working on campaigns supporting survivors of sexual violence through to work supporting vulnerable refugees.
Lesley Dixon from social support charity PSS explains the importance of self-care which can improve the ability to cope with the stress that employees often experience. If this isn’t prioritised internally, it can have significant consequences for individuals working in the not-for-profit sector, for beneficiaries, and for the organisation itself.
Our findings: 'Opening the conversation: mental well-being at work'shows that two-thirds (67%) of UK workers have struggled with mental well-being.
The charity sector does score above the average in many areas when looking at wellbeing at work, but there are still gaps and room for improvement.
Problem with openness
Mark Flannagan from Beating BoweI Cancer explains that he doesn’t think there is enough talk in our sector about mental health, particularly at the top.
Staff not feeling they can be open about the struggles they face is still a key barrier. 28% of workers in the charity sector who have struggled with their mental well-being in the past 12 months took time off, almost half the amount for when they had a physical health problem (55%). Just over one in ten thought their employer wouldn’t understand, while 17% didn’t think it was a valid reason for taking time off.
Reluctance to engage with emotions is a concern, with men often feeling like they are not able to speak up and admit they are struggling, and women experiencing accusations of being too emotional and therefore not up to the job. There is an expectation, as Lina Abirafeh describes, for charity and aid workers to "put on a super-hero cape all the time and not show any weakness for fear of being perceived as not up to the job":
“Policies and helplines tick boxes but there has to be empathy and genuine interest for staff to feel that wellbeing is being taken seriously”
“There are already options available with private counselling numbers available to call, or management can hear concerns, but with staffing tight one feels that we need more staff and stability in team members so there are consistent people to turn to for help. At present feels like adding to someone's already high work load with less staff/managers around”
“People who suffer from stress or anxiety and are open about it are thought of as weak and a liability”
Creating a culture of trust and openness
Improving mental wellbeing and trust among staff doesn’t necessarily have to come with heavy investments. While we can’t deny that having certain initiatives and processes in place are crucial in supporting staff and wellbeing (e.g. counselling schemes, mentoring schemes, mental first aiders) developing and maintaining a culture of openness and acceptance of how mental health is viewed and from the top is crucial.
This also can help educate staff about mental wellbeing and should be viewed and accepted on same level as any physical illness. Listening to their employees in terms of what support would be helpful, making them feel safe and be open about mental health in the workplace is key.