This week, an article came out titled “Have the actions of Captain Tom Moore's daughter tarnished his legacy and made it harder for other charities to raise money for those in need?” The potential damage to a nationally beloved figure’s legacy is heartbreaking – but the second half of the title is more of a worry for charities around the country. Scandals like the one in question are naturally of huge importance to the wider charity sector, with concerns of how it will impact fundraising and institutional trust being raised in the article.
Having seen scandals rock the sector in the past, we’ve been able to track the exact impact of each through our research with the public. Our work has allowed us to witness how public trust gets swayed in real time – and so today we’re sharing our thoughts on what the effect of this news story may be and how charities can expect their relationships with the public to hold up in the coming months.
What is this scandal about?
Captain Tom earned public admiration and celebrity status during the 2020 lockdown by raising £38.9m for the NHS. People tuned in to him on social media where his goal to walk 100 laps of his garden before he turned 100 provided a much-appreciated sense of community and hope during what was a difficult time for many. Captain Tom wrote three books, with two having been released in 2020, and one being released shortly after his death at the age of 100.
The primary figure of the scandal is his daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, who has faced public backlash again and again for her actions over the past several months. The substantial accusations that have been made have been into the mismanagement of the foundation set up in her father’s name and large payments that have been made to her as CEO. On top of this, she recieved £800,000 from her father’s book sales that was implied, some say, to be dedicated to charity in the books’ forewords. Other issues also further sway the optics of the situation, with Ingram-Moore having built a spa block on her property without the correct approval and being ordered to tear it down. This inflates the sense of personal enrichment many believe she has abused her father’s legacy to achieve.
How have previous scandals affected the sector?
There have thankfully not been too many scandals that have affected the UK charity sector in the past decade or so. In most people’s minds, the main scandal in recent memory was the sexual misconduct by Oxfam employees working in Haiti following an earthquake in 2010. This came to light in 2018, and further inquiries and investigations were made over the following year.
2015 was also a bad year for the sector, with two stories breaking. The first was about fundraising company GoGen targeting vulnerable members of the public for donations, meanwhile the charity Kids Company closed following allegations of child abuse and a dishonest use of public money.
These are just a few examples where genuine misconduct which has been addressed and reported on – but how have they impacted the wider sector? Well, one of the key measures we check regularly is public trust, and these stories definitely had an impact on the results of our surveys. We saw in 2015 that public trust in charities was at its lowest ever point. Only 47% of the public trusted charities, the only time period we have where this figure was less than half. We can also see that, while recovery was immediate, 2018 saw this progress ended as trust dropped again. Thankfully, a look at levels of giving suggests that whilst the public might have felt less trusting of charities, the number of people that were donating throughout the period remained more steady.
How will this scandal compare?
Our expectation is that the recent news won’t be as impactful on the sector as previous scandals, for several reasons. Firstly, while money might have been diverted away from a cause, no first-hand harm was conducted by a charity official. Secondly, the accusations being made are largely being directed at an individual, rather than at a faceless charity which might be thought of as emblematic and raise questions across the sector.
Finally, The Captain Tom Foundation is a reasonably small institution, and this story has unfolded over a very short time frame. It’s likely that this encourages the public to think of the story as a case of personal misjudgement, rather than an institutional problem likely to cause disenfranchisement.
Given that this case is one of reasonable small scope, and that our research shows that trust is currently at an all time high in the sector, we believe that charities can rest assured that the impact of this story will be minimal – but we look forward to keeping your updated on our sector research in the future if anything changes.
Understanding the public's attitudes towards your charity can help you stay ahead of sector-wide impactors such as scandals. If you're looking to better understand your audiences, contact us at insight@nfpResearch.com or download a briefing pack below.