September 25, 2023

How charities explain themselves

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When someone asks you what your charity does, what do you say? It has to vary depending on who you’re talking to, of course, and people want an overview, not all the details. But even that overview has to be consistent. The core of your mission, purpose, activity, all of that should be crystal clear to potential donors. So, do you have a prepared patter, or do you wing it depending on your audience?

We’ve combed through thousands of online charity overviews, and picked out five of our favourites. Not an easy task when there are so many great, and vastly different, charities out there.

Big charities with long-standing histories may have the benefit of being identified by their reputation. Most people in the UK will know what the WWF stands for, or that Dogs Trust provide a rehoming service, but do they know the full story of what your charity does?

And if you’re a smaller, regional, or new charity, it's imperative to get that tricky ‘elevator pitch’ just right, so new audiences and potential donors can get to know you.

Here are five of our favourite charity overviews:


24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the RNLI is ready to save lives. Our volunteer lifeboat crews provide a 24-hour rescue service in the UK and Ireland and our seasonal lifeguards patrol busy beaches. RNLI crews and lifeguards have saved over 144,000 lives since 1824. We're more than just a rescue service - we influence, supervise and educate people too. Our Community Safety teams explain the risks and share safety knowledge with anyone going out to sea or to the coast. And our international teams work with like-minded organisations to help tackle drowning in communities at risk all around the world.


2. Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is dedicated to saving lives through research. Our mission is to prevent, control, and cure cancer through our ground-breaking research, and in the last 40 years, our work has helped double survival rates. But there is more work to be done. The only charity fighting over 200 types of cancer, we rely on every pound donated to help get us closer to beating cancer.

3. Barnardo's

Barnardo’s is one of the leading children’s charities in the UK. Every year, we provide ongoing support for over 380,000 children, young people, parents and carers, through our services and partnerships. We know the reality of children’s lives is constantly shifting – and so are the difficulties they face. Whether it’s threats online, criminal exploitation by gangs, or the needs of children arriving in the UK as refugees.


4. British Heart Foundation

The BHF is the UK's largest independent funder of cardiovascular research in the UK. For over 60 years, BHF has pioneered life-saving research that has helped halve the number of deaths from heart and circulatory disease in the UK. BHF also helps provide vital support and information for the 7.4 million people living in the UK with heart and circulatory disease.


The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.


We love these because they work immediately, and not a word is wasted!

They’re all very different but they have several descriptive elements in common, things that just stand out and make you pay attention to their wonderful cause.

The first is clarity. They know exactly what they’re taking about, and therefore, so do we! Purpose, activity and impact - got it, thanks!

Next is emotional connection. You can sense the compassion they have for their cause. They humanise what they do and emphasise the importance of providing support. We love it. But emotional connection alone doesn’t get donors!

They also need to show that they know what they’re doing. They demonstrate an understanding of the issues they address. They are experts, and you can trust them. But how do they prove this?

By clearly explaining their impact. Saying what they’re helping with is all very good, but they also need to show us the tangible difference they make because of their expertise and their commitment. Donors want to see results are truly possible, that good things will come.

Another thing all of the above overviews have in common is their lack of jargon. No one loves excessive technical language, no matter how enthusiastically shared! You can’t take people’s knowledge of your charity for granted, so be clear and accessible to a wide range of people.

Ultimately you need to easily explain your organisations’ mission, vision and values without overcomplicating or getting tongue tied. If their eyes glaze over you might be, just slightly, losing them.

Really, your big goal is to inspire that lovely enquiring person who is smiling at you and ready to hear what you have to say. Start by telling them what you do. How your particular activities contribute and make a positive impact.

If you can make them believe that change is possible, and that their help will make a difference, you’ve done your job and everyone’s a winner!

We love charities (every single one of them) and work with them exclusively. So if your message is getting lost in the noise, or you need some help finding the right language to convey what you do and why it’s important, please get in touch.