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Managing reputation for ‘good works’ while undertaking commercial activities: Communication best practice guidelines for charities

Author(s): Tom Watson | Anna Marie White

Journal: PRism Online PR Journal
ISSN 1448-4404

Volume: 7;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: public relations | charities | not-for-profit | fundraising | dual citizenship | commercial | voluntary | UK | commercial activities

Charities and not-for-profit organisations have traditionally eschewed commercial operations in favour of direct fundraising from supporters. Competitive pressures, however, are driving charities to take on ‘dual citizenship’ through activity in both profit (commercial) and non-profit (voluntary) sectors. There has been little scholarly attention or professional focus on the impact that commercial trading by charities has on relations with key stakeholders, such as supporters, and upon the reputation of the community-focused organisations. This paper reports a case study of a UK charity and explores supporters’ perceptions of the impact of commercial trading upon the organisation’s reputation as well as their relationship and level of engagement with the organisation. It found that donors are in support of commercial activities, as long as these are aligned with the charity’s values. The study, however, also found that commercial activities should not deflect the charity from its perceived and announced mission.
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