Protecting a charity’s brand and reputation

20 March, 2012

Brand and reputation will both be important considerations for all charities, particularly those engaged in fundraising activities. Brand can be described as what an organisation says about itself and reputation is what others say about it.

Whilst branding can influence reputation, in the modern technological era, reputation is considered to have a greater impact on branding than the reverse. A recognisable organisation which the public consider to be trustworthy will be more successful in encouraging donations and other support than an organisation with a poor reputation or no reputation. This article sets out some practical ways of protecting a charity’s brand and reputation and should assist charities in maintaining a positive public image.

 

Management

Strong management and sound administrative and financial procedures will be a key part of protecting a charity’s public image. An organisation wide approach to risk management should ensure that unnecessary or damaging risks are avoided.

Charities should ensure that they are in compliance with all regulations and codes regarding accepting funds and should be mindful of the potential for a charity to be a target for money laundering. Monitoring should be carried out to ensure that funds raised for a particular purpose are indeed used for that purpose. Financial embarrassment can be devastating for any organisation but especially so for a charity relying on donations. Confidence in the charity will be reinforced if there is a history of prudent administration.

Making sure that all employees are fully trained and aware of all the charity’s rules and procedures and that the organisation is managed in a joined up way will also help to build the brand and enhance the charity’s reputation.

 

Trademarks

A Trademark is a distinctive sign; words, a symbol or both which is recognisable to the public and can be used as a marketing tool.  Trademarks should be registered with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and offer an effective means of brand protection.

The IPO website contains detailed information on what will constitute a valid trademark, instructions on how to apply for registration and a searchable list of all the currently registered trademarks.  Once registered, the charity will have the exclusive right to use its trademark in connection with the goods or services for which the trademark is registered. The registration lasts for an initial period of ten years and can then be renewed.  Any other organisations wishing to use the trademark in relation to the relevant goods or services would need to obtain a licence from the charity to do so.

Once a charity has a registered trademark it should monitor applications for trademarks and oppose those which are too similar and could therefore cause confusion to potential donors and the public generally.

 

Websites and domain names

Most charities have a website and a registered domain name, usually www.charityname.org. However, charities should also consider whether it is worth purchasing the other key domain names (such as www.charityname.co.uk and www.charityname.com) and using these to redirect visitors to the main website to ensure that members of the public do not mistakenly confuse another organisations website with that of the charity.

 

Commercial partners

Charities can risk public confidence and support when their fund-raising activities and choice of commercial partners are not seen to be consistent with the charity’s core work, aims, values and image. There have been a number of Charity Commission cases which testify to the damage that can be caused to a charity’s reputation by a real or perceived clash between a commercial partnership and a charity’s core work, image and name.

Charities should recognise that their name is a valuable asset and that, in a commercial partnership, association with a charity can generate substantial benefits for the company. Accordingly, charities need to take steps to protect their name and reputation by not only choosing commercial partners carefully but also by ensuring that they have a suitable written agreement in place with their commercial partners which contains controls designed to safeguard the assets, name, and reputation of the charity.

Reviewed in 2015