Taking Money from the Dark Side

So, the News of the World is closing, following the escalating phone hacking scandals. As one last ‘gesture’ they are donating all their advertising space this Sunday to good causes.

If you are a charity, especially one that could not normally afford to advertise, the prospect of an advertisement in a newspaper with a circulation of over 2 million is quite tempting. It’s an opportunity to help your beneficiaries – and all us fundraisers are here to help our beneficiaries, that’s why we do what we do, right? – and raise public awareness of your cause.

On the other hand, what might it say about your charity, putting an advertisement into a paper that has purportedly been closed because of its downright underhand tactics in getting stories? When the course of one or more murder investigations may have been jeopardised down to bad journalistic practice, or the privacy of families grieving fallen soldiers has been invaded, even if by News of the World staff no longer with the organisation, do we really want to be associated in any way with this kind of thing?

That said, there are many charities who accept funding from large corporates who use, or have used, perhaps less than ethical practices. Is anyone perfect? What level of morality does an organisation need to have before we are prepared to work with them? Where is the line that us fundraisers shall not cross? Does your charity have an agreed policy on this sort of thing?

I’ll be interested to see what charities, and I imagine that there will be some, will take up the News of the World offer. I’m not judging them, I actually think this is really quite a difficult call for the reasons I’ve outlined above, and if some charities were to take up the offer, I can’t say I’d blame them. In fact, there is some activity on Twitter looking at the possibility of some sort of centralised number for a coalition of charities to be able to accept donations. That way, charities can benefit whilst not risking associating their branding with a negative situation.

Incidentally, I am amongst those cynical enough to wonder whether actually the News of the World was living on borrowed time anyway. Selling press advertising is becoming more and more difficult. Apparently www.thesunonsunday.co.uk was registered as a domain name on 5th July… although whether on behalf of The Sun, or whether by some enterprising ‘other’ I’m not sure. We shall see…