Candid communication

By Sarah Keen 3 August 2010

Last Thursday I attended a breakfast seminar hosted by Fairbridge, a national charity working with disadvantaged young people aged 13 to 25. The seminar was to discuss ‘Back from the Brink’, a report pulling together findings from three independent evaluations of Fairbridge over a ten year period. The research even involved a regression analysis.

Wow. At NPC, this is exactly the kind of report we like to see—not for the regression analysis per se (although the measurement team does love a bit of number crunching) but for the thoughtful use of data that such a report implies. Because as well as using these findings to demonstrate its impact, Fairbridge is using them to inform its service delivery.

What we particularly loved about the report was that it was honest—not a glossy attempt to prove everything is fine and dandy, but a look, as chief executive Andrew Purvis remarked, at the ‘underbelly of Fairbridge’. There’s obviously lots of good stuff in there too, but Fairbridge is candid that some teams have much higher success rates than others. The charity has now identified the factors critical to success, and is seeking to share best practice across its teams.

As NPC’s forthcoming paper on impact reporting will show, Fairbridge is an exception to the rule here. Charities are not yet routinely communicating their outcomes or impact in their annual reports, annual reviews, impact reports or websites, tending to talk instead about outputs and internally-focused objectives. We need more charities like Fairbridge communicating honestly about what they achieve.