Voluntary Sector: Charity PROs safe for now

UK's biggest groups insist they have no plans to make comms personnel redundant.

The UK's biggest charities are resisting pressure to make comms staff redundant as the credit crunch potentially hits their funding.

Last week, Scope made staff including external director of affairs Stephen Bowen and director of campaigns Andy James redundant, blaming the credit crunch (PRWeek, 10 October). The charity has also refused to rule out further redundancies in the comms department.

But this week, nine of the ten biggest charities insisted they had no plans to follow suit, despite mounting financial pressures.

PRWeek contacted the ten largest charities by fee income and profile. Only the NSPCC could not guarantee comms jobs. Head of media Gerry Tissier said the organisation was reviewing its costs and that this could include redundancies. But the charity still expects to see an increase in its (comms) budget next year. Trustees will make any such decisions in November.

The British Red Cross, Action for Children, the National Trust, Barnardo's, Mencap, the British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Cancer Research UK and Save The Children all said they were not expecting to make staff redundant in the comms department in the next six months.

However, charity comms directors did not underestimate the potential impact of the financial crisis, with most looking at ways to cut costs.

Oxfam, for example, is cutting 10 per cent of its 'variable costs', which could include redundancies - but head of media Amy Barry said these would not come from the comms department.

The Charity Commission's head of news Sarah Miller said: 'Charities should be aware of how important communication is when they are experiencing any financial difficulty. Internal and external comms need to be consistent and honest.'

The National Trust's head of comms Andrew McLaughlin agreed: 'Communication is doubly important in a time like this. We need to continue to get the message out about why the public should support us.'

Mencap's PR manager Sam Heath warned organisations to demonstrate the worth of having a well-staffed comms team. 'It may be considered an unnecessary expenditure if you haven't made a strong enough case,' he said.

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