C.1 Integrity in Marketing and Reporting

Integrity in marketing and reporting is critical to building and sustaining confidence among donors and stakeholders that organisations that are signatories to the ACFID Code of Conduct are truthful and honest. Ensuring that communications are developed with integrity provides organisations with credibility among key stakeholders, including the communities that it seeks to support and donors from whom it receives support.

Section C1 of the ACFID Code of Conduct includes three sets of Standards each with respective Principle and Obligations. Standards C.1.1C.1.3 set clear expectations for signatory organisations to provide accurate and accessible information about the activities an organisation is undertaking and to ensure that the use of images and messages respects the dignity, values, history, religion and culture of the people portrayed.
 

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C.1.1 Transparency

Principle

Signatory organisations are committed to accurate and transparent communication with their stakeholders.

Obligations

  1. Signatory organisations will proactively make available information to stakeholders which is accurate, accessible and timely.
  2. Signatories will be clear about what information they will and will not provide to stakeholders.

Why

Transparency is a key component of accountability to your organisation’s stakeholders. Without information on your activities, performance or financial situation, informed decisions cannot be made, and your stakeholders will find it difficult to engage with you and hold you to account.

Values

This standard reflects the Code of Conduct’s commitment to:

  • Accountability to stakeholders for performance and integrity
  • Building creative and trusting relationships with communities
  • Honesty and transparency.

Practical guidance

In general, information must be easily accessed, accurate and up to date. It may need to be tailored to increase its accessibility to different stakeholders, such as primary stakeholders (to whom development activities seek to directly benefit), partners, government, regulatory bodies, local leaders and officials, donors, supporters, volunteers, staff, governing body members, and peer organisations.

Here are some practical suggestions for your organisation to ensure accurate and transparent communication:

The general public

  • Publish a clearly defined mission statement
  • Publish information on your governance: structure, decision-making processes, governing body members and contact information
  • Comply with all relevant governance, financial accounting and reporting requirements
  • Develop an open information policy committing to disclose timely, relevant and accurate information in an accessible format, with any exceptions clearly and reasonably explained (such as data protection issues)
  • Publish an annual financial report that conforms with relevant laws and practices and is audited by a qualified independent auditor whose statement accompanies the report
  • Publish an annual report that also describes your NGO’s mission and values, objectives and outcomes achieved in programmes and advocacy work, environmental impact, governance structure, processes and main office bearers, main sources of funding, financial performance, and contact details
  • Maintain an updated website

Donors and supporters

  • Regularly update donors and supporters through a wide range of communication channels, such as through newsletters and your website and social media channels
  • Information should include organisational activity, including actual performance in relation to previously agreed goals, financial reports showing actual expenditure compared to budget, and any significant changes to programme goals or activities, the budget or key contacts. 

Partners, communities and other stakeholders

  • Publish relevant information in the country of operations. This could include:
    • Background information on your organisation or partners, including the mission and values, country of origin, website, and legal status in country of operations
    • Details of the specific programme, including name, duration, location, goals, activities, target criteria and budget (while ensuring that the safety or wellbeing of any person or child is not compromised in doing so)
    • Contact information, including country office address, name and contact details of the programme manager and other relevant individuals
    • Regular reports of actual performance in relation to previously agreed goals
    • Regular financial reports showing actual expenditure compared to budget
    • Any significant changes to programme goals or activities, the budget or key contacts
    • Dates and locations of key events such as meetings and consultations
    • Specific contact details for making comments or suggestions on the program activities or to request additional information
    • Information on how to make complaints about activities, including a named member of staff to contact and contact details
  • Tailor information for it to be readily accessible to the different stakeholders. 

Resources

C.1.2 Reflecting Values

Principle

Marketing materials will reflect signatory organisations’ missions and values and the values of this Code.

Obligations

  1. Signatory organisations will ensure their marketing materials clearly reflect their organisational values and the values of this code.

Why

Your donors and supporters should have a clear understanding of your organisation’s values. These values should be aligned to the values of the ACFID Code of Conduct and the way your work is communicated. To demonstrate integrity, your organisation’s marketing materials should reflect both your values and the values of the ACFID Code of Conduct to which you are a signatory. 

Values

This standard reflects the Code of Conduct’s commitment to:

  • Accountability to stakeholders for performance and integrity
  • Building creative and trusting relationships with communities

Practical guidance

Here are some practical suggestions for your organisation to ensure coherence between your values, the values of the Code and the ways these are communicated: 

Promoting values

  • If not already in your governance documents, define, create and document a statement of the values that inform your organisation’s practice
  • Communicate your values in key marketing materials such on your website, and in your annual report, brochures and other reports
  • Ensure all staff and volunteers are aware of and understand the values of your organisation.
  • Ensure marketing staff and others such as bard members, volunteers etc are familiar with the values in the ACFID Code on Conduct.

Policy and guidelines

  • Develop appropriate policies and guidelines relating to promoting your organisation’s values. These could include:
    • Communication guidelines for the design and development of marketing materials that reflect organisational values and ACFID Code of Conduct values.
    • For larger signatory organisations, develop protocols for the approval of communication materials according to these guidelines.
  • A fundraising policy that includes reference to the values of your organisation and compliance with legal regulations where appropriate.
  • A social media policy that guides staff, volunteers, supporters and associates on personal communications involving the work of your organisation.
  • Ensure that your staff and stakeholders are not authorised to represent you or communicate on your behalf without approval. 

Monitoring and review

  • Monitor social media activity to ensure that your values are being appropriately represented
  • Develop approval protocols to ensure that communication materials appropriately reflect your values
  • Undertake periodic reviews of all communication materials to ensure that ACFID Code of Conduct and organisational values are represented.  

Resources

C.1.3 Portrayal of Local People

Principle

Signatory organisations will ensure that the use of images and messages portraying women and men, boys and girls in their communications respects the dignity, values, history, religion and culture of the people portrayed.

Obligations

  1. Images and messages of women and men, boys and girls will present them in a dignified, respectful manner, portraying them as equal partners in the development process.
  2. Images and messages will honestly portray the diversity of local people including age, disability and other marginalised groups.
  3. Images and messages will honestly convey the context and complexity of the situations in which local people live.
  4. Key figures in images will be informed of what the image is being used for and, if possible, their permission obtained.
  5. Origins of any images used will be known and any necessary permissions, including copyright releases, be held.
  6. Care will be taken to ensure that the identification of or use of images of local people will not endanger the people they portray.

Why

Images and messages can have enormous influence on public perception and attitudes, and can have a cumulative effect over time. Communication about development and aid must therefore be carefully considered. Portrayals of the people involved must be respectful and honest.

Communication materials also need to contribute towards supportive, respectful and effective relationships with the local communities who are your most important stakeholders.

Ensuring that communication materials reflect respect for local communities is a reflection of your organisation’s commitment to the values of partnership, respect and honesty; and contributes to the long-term effectiveness of aid and development.

Values

This standard reflects the Code of Conduct’s commitment to:

  • Building creative and trusting relationships with communities based on an understanding of their history and culture
  • Valuing men and women, boys and girls in ways that respect the dignity, uniqueness and intrinsic worth of every person
  • Honesty and transparency
  • Accountability to stakeholders.

Practical guidance

It can be a challenge to accurately represent the distress caused by poverty while being respectful and upholding the values of this Code. It will require ethical judgement as well as leadership from and the full engagement of your organisation.

Here are some practical suggestions for your organisation to ensure respectful and truthful portrayal of the people involved in development and aid activities: 

Organisational level

  • Integrate this standard’s obligations into appropriate policies and guidelines relating to media, communications, marketing and fundraising
  • Ensure that staff involved in public engagement activities are familiar with this range of issues
  • Provide awareness-raising, guidance and training to relevant staff, which could include the use of case studies
  • Undertake periodic reviews of all communication materials to ensure that images and messages respect the dignity, values, history, religion and culture of the people portrayed.

Policy and guidelines

  • Develop and implement a policy on the portrayal of local people and the use of images and pictures
  • Include a commitment to presenting individuals in respectful ways within relevant policies such as communications, marketing and fundraising
  • Develop practical guidelines for use by staff, volunteers or contractors when documenting stories or taking photos in the field, including appropriate approaches to gaining consent for collecting images and stories. Verbal consent may be more appropriate than written consent in some contexts.
  • Keep records of the origins of images and case studies, permissions and copyright releases, as well as key details including name, age, location, date, program association and form of consent gained
  • Developing a repository for these records to provide a quality control mechanism that ensures that images and case studies used are appropriate, accurate and consensual
  • Seek advice from field partners on risks related to using images and case studies
  • Ensure file labels do not reveal identifying information about a child when sending images electronically
  • Develop approval protocols to ensure that any image, photo or story that is used in communication materials meets ethical guidelines established by your organisation. 

Guidance for images and messages

  • Present photographs, films, videos, DVDs and messages of women and men, boys and girls in a respectful manner, honestly portraying their personal experience and context and as partners in the development process
  • Do not use images or messages that manipulate the story to portray people in a pitiful way
  • Do not create images of children where they are not adequately clothed and in poses that could be seen as sexually suggestive
  • Ensure images are honest representations of the context and facts
  • Portray participants in activities which reflect their daily lives
  • Convey the context and complexity of the situations in which local people live. Images of people in vulnerable situations should focus more on the reasons for and the context of a situation, rather than on an individual’s suffering.
  • Honestly portray the diversity of local people including age, disability and other marginalised groups
  • Inform key persons in images of what the image is being used for and obtain their permission. In the case of a child, obtain consent from a parent or guardian.
  • Show some examples of the kinds of materials that are produced so that those involved understand how their personal details and story might be used.
  • Ensure images and information and the associated permissions being used are current - information should not be used indefinitely
  • Where appropriate, use the names of those photographed when captioning the image
  • Ensure that the identification of or use of images of local people will not bring them into any danger
  • When photographing or filming a person, identify and seek to comply with local traditions or restrictions for reproducing personal images
  • Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves. Consider using local spokespersons to show that local people are actively involved in development or humanitarian work
  • Use images and messages to diversify voices, perspectives, and representations in your public communications, including critical reflection from partners and communities and an examination of your organisation’s values.

Resources