Investigations of how Oxfam Great Britain (GB) managed its safeguarding systems and handled revelations of sexual exploitation by its staff highlighted a variety of internal governance and culture issues, and a lack of transparency as it sought to protect its reputation. The current models of reputation management do not fully explain its actions, however. This article argues that five systemic factors in the environment in which nonprofits operate create undue pressures for protection of reputations and contribute to poor assessment of risks, inadequate accountability systems and limited transparency. These factors include: a stress on success and related competition for market share and pressures for growth; expectations of low overheads; challenges of governance and risk management; lack of public awareness; and regulatory gaps. Drawing on media coverage and the commissions of inquiry, the analysis shows how all of these contextual factors were at play in the Oxfam case, and suggests potential reforms.

charity regulation, nonprofit policy, Oxfam scandal, reputation management, self-regulation
Nonprofit Policy Forum
School of Public Policy and Administration

Phillips, S.D. (2019). Putting Humpty Together Again: How Reputation Regulation Fails the Charitable Sector. Nonprofit Policy Forum, 10(4). doi:10.1515/npf-2019-0032