PR and values in the charity sector

12th Annual Donors’ Forum Conference: What glamour, journalism, fundraising and personal stories say about values


The number of publications on philanthropy and charitable work in the media is growing each year. However, most cover specific events, activities, large donations and participation by celebrities, while the motivation and values of volunteers remain hidden behind the scenes. With this in mind, the conference discussed what elements of PR and advertising could be used, not only to disseminate information, but also to share the values on which charity is based under the theme “Values and motivation for modern-day charity: Horizons for development”.

According to Mitya Aleshkovsky, Head of the Charity Project “”, journalism that describes charitable work is not the kind of writing that is associated with normal journalistic standards and principles. Mitya added that “Journalists must understand that the main aim of charity is not to help, but not to do harm. Editors often place journalistic values above those of charity. However, when it comes to helping people, we must stick to the rules”. Mitya believes that there are too few journalists who are qualified to write about charitable work. Sometimes you have to work one-to-one with journalists and explain to them and their editors that it isn’t necessary to delve into the personal histories of people who’ve been involved in charitable work and, in so doing, discovering information that could do harm.

Vladimir Torin, Head of Public Relations and Communications at “Eurochem”, is convinced that professional journalists who know how to write about charity will emerge over time “if we follow the long road towards the creation of a civil society”.

PR is essential to NGOs. Tatiana Zadirako, Executive Director of the charity “The United Way”, believes that the degree of awareness of a particular charity has an impact on its revenue streams. People in the public eye, celebrities and well-known journalists can raise the level of trust in NGOs. Tatiana went on to say that “the glamour factor within the NGO sector has a direct impact on levels of trust, which in turn leads to an increase in funds for an NGO. We can now say that there is genuine public recognition of the work of charities. Look at how much has been collected by Rusfond during 2014 – 1.3 billion roubles – that’s an incredible amount”.

Zadirako believes that charities can promote themselves in two ways, i.e. collecting money for an operation for a seriously ill child for example, and spreading the word more generally of the importance of charity. An illustration of the latter is provided by an advertising campaign called “Habits”, which was successful in convincing Muscovites to get into the habit of supporting charity by donating at least 100 roubles on a regular basis.

According to Lev Ambinder, President of Rusfond, charities should never paint a false picture when comparing themselves with others. “When we started using the media to say something good or unflattering about ourselves, things went badly. I can’t understand why we’re criticised for running ineffective fundraising activities by collecting money for a particular child rather than for specific programmes, particularly as Rusfond has invested 87.5 million roubles for programmes during the first nine months of this year”, Ambinder added.

There is no PR competition between charities. Tatiana Zadirako is sure that if each charity has its own narrative and its own story to tell, they can be on the same level as organisations such as “Give Life!”, “Faith” and “Line of Life”.

Zadirako considers it essential that charities have their own PR. Such organisations should promote the idea that it is not just children who are in need of help. A person who’s donated 50 roubles has made his/her contribution, as large sums are made up of such small donations. Charities should also create a vision of voluntarism and publicise the fact that they need administrative costs to further their own development.

Conference participants agreed that the media is the main outlet for promoting ideas and values, but that charities and organisations needed to agree on the language, instruments and approaches to be aimed at the reader.

Author: Yulia Vyatkina

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