Protecting Philanthropy - Part 4

29 November 2017

As set out in parts one, two and three of this Protecting Philanthropy series, taking pre-emptive steps to safeguard your reputation and privacy is paramount from the moment you start developing and implementing your charitable aims and ideals.

In this final instalment, we consider how you can protect your reputation if and when a crisis hits and your chosen charity or philanthropic endeavour is swept up in a negative media storm.

There are numerous contemporary examples of charities attracting less-than-positive public scrutiny, particularly for the way they manage and invest charitable funds. The obvious example is Kids Company; which was a successful UK charity until it was liquidated in 2015 and investigated by the UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (among others). Not only was the charity itself subject to intense criticism, its officers and supporters, including the UK government, also became the focus of an intense media storm.

Such scandals are becoming more common; and with cyber-attacks becoming more prevalent and regulatory scrutiny intensifying, the potential for unwanted negative media attention on charitable investors is only going to increase. So what practical steps can you take to protect your reputation if it falls foul of a media storm surrounding the charity, foundation or cause with which you are affiliated?

Knowledge is power

You need to be aware of what allegations have been made, and how (if at all) they can be linked to you personally. In the case of a cyber attack, you need to understand information has been taken? You also need to anticipate what the media will focus on, what angle the story will take and move quickly to identify what evidence supports or weakens the allegations being made. Knowledge is key here in deciphering how you, your family or your business could be swept up in the ensuing negative publicity.

Speed of response

Based on the information you’ve been able to gather, your speed of response will prove critical when it comes to defending your reputation. This may involve you issuing a proactive media response and/or taking legal steps to engage with the media to ensure any reporting is fair and accurate. You may also want to consider involving your own research and intelligence specialists to independently investigate the allegations and assess how far the threat has extended globally. You want to have the most capable team in place to assess the threat to you personally, and how it can be contained.

Ultimately, you may have to decide whether the crisis is sufficiently serious that you need to take steps to disassociate yourself with the organisation or cause implicated. If so, this needs to be done sensitively and discretely, based on the advice of your legal team and communications advisors. Alternatively, if you choose to continue to support the organisation or cause implicated, then it’s imperative that you keep monitoring the situation. 

As detailed in part two of this series, ongoing due diligence and risk management is key when it comes to protecting you, your reputation and your philanthropy.  

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