Nonprofit Hero Adeela Warley is CEO of CharityComms.
Nonprofit Heroes is our series of interviews with industry experts, successfully proven fundraisers, and nonprofit heroes with stories and tips to inspire your charity to use technology to your advantage and do good, better.
Let’s start with some background information – who are you, and what do you do?
I am Adeela Warley, CEO of CharityComms, the membership network for communications professionals working in UK charities. We help raise the standard of communications across the sector, fly the flag for communications as a vital strategic function at the heart of charities, and to connect comms professionals by sharing best practice.
What was your first job?
Working in Foyles bookshop. I thought it would be a dream job but I spent my days in a payment kiosk and never got near the books.
How did you get into the charity sector?
Environmental issues have been a lifetime’s passion from volunteering for Greenpeace in my student days to learning the trade with environment charity Friends of the Earth. My first charity job, as an information officer for the British Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), was an exciting time as it launched the “Choose Cruelty–Free” cosmetics campaign with The Body Shop. This marked a big shift in public attitudes and consumer behaviour and the campaign secured changes in the laws on animal testing.
Tell us about CharityComms and your journey there so far
I joined CharityComms in 2008 as an organisational member when I was Head of Communications at Friends of the Earth. CharityComms has helped me build my professional knowledge and make valuable contacts across the sector. In 2015, I became a CharityComms trustee. I was incredibly proud to be appointed CEO in 2017 in time to celebrate the 10th Anniversary and start planning a new decade of success. The need for a strong and compelling narrative about the incredible contribution charities make to society is more vital than ever.
What are the biggest communications challenges that charities face right now?
Public trust in charities is volatile. Recently, safeguarding has dominated the headlines and although this story is not about communications or fundraising per se, both are implicated. There’s an imperative for charities to tell the story not just of the good they do in the world but also how their work is achieved.
If you could change one thing to improve anything in the way charities communicate, what (or who) would you change, and how?
Charities must show how their policies, working culture and training for staff and volunteers are fully aligned with their founding values – values such as justice, empowerment, transparency, honesty. So, let’s be brave and honest about how we work and be prepared to put things right when they go wrong. Charities have also been in the firing line over so called “backroom services” but these are vital for running effective, efficient charities that are accountable to supporters, donors and beneficiaries.
CharityComms’s mission is to support and skill up communicators so that they can tell their organisational story with integrity. We also champion organisational cultures which recognise and value the strategic role of communications and invest in the learning and development of their communications teams.
How do you think charity communications will change in the years to come?
Charities no longer have the monopoly on doing good – commercial companies, social enterprises, start-ups are all active in our space. Technology has helped people raise money and organise without the need for charities as intermediaries. Instead of seeing these changes as a threat, those charities who are prepared to focus on their core purpose, to make tough decisions about what to do and what not to do, to take risks, test and learn and to broker unusual but powerful partnerships, can survive and prosper in this new context.
Do any tech innovations come to mind that have made your life easier and saved you time or money?
I’m quite a low-tech person in my personal life but being able to download a book onto my Kindle in seconds is a special kind of magic for a book worm like me.
A few quickfire questions:
- Your Desert Island disc, if you had to choose one?
Abdullah Ibrahim’s – African Sketch Book
- PC or a Mac?
PC at work, Mac at home
- The most used app on your smartphone?
BBC iPlayer Radio
Finally - do you have a non-profit hero or heroine? If so, who and why?
Where do I start! In my job, I get to meet so many extraordinary people achieving incredible things – I recently met Alex Eagle, co-founder and CEO of The Running Charity. Drawing on a decade in the homeless sector and in sports development, Alex and his team help young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their dreams through running. His clarity of purpose and his ability to forge partnerships is a winning combination.
Thanks Adeela for being our nonprofit hero!