More Than Words

This research was commissioned by the Thomas Paine Initiative, with support from a group of UK trusts and foundations (including Barrow Cadbury Trust, the JMG Foundation, the Oak Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Rosa, the UK Fund for Women and Girls, and Unbound Philanthropy) as a scoping study in advance of a Learning Exchange to take place in May 2019, bringing the strategic communications field together to facilitate cross-sector learning and to explore the appetite and feasibility for collaboration around commonly- held values. The brief was to carry out scoping work to understand more about the strategic communications field in the UK as well as to explore the potential for joint working across sectors, particularly where there are commonly-held values.

This paper explores how voluntary sector organisations in the UK are developing, embedding and sharing their communications strategies. It provides an overview of where the field currently is, and poses questions and provocations. We encourage charities to embrace strategic communication as “gifting” and reflect on the significance of non-verbal communication. We highlight examples from the voluntary sector and the commercial world. We then look at the barriers holding the sector back and how, and with what backbone support, this work could flourish. Finally, we address how greater collaboration could move the sector forward.