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Public trust in charities fell sharply in the past year

Public trust in charities fell sharply in the past year
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Public trust in charities fell sharply in the past year2

Governance | Jenna Pudelek | 24 Jun 2014

The number of people saying they trust charities has fallen from 66 per cent to 56 per cent in 2014, according to research published today by nfpSynergy.

The not-for-profit consultancy said trust in charities was 'highly volatile' and could not be taken for granted.

A poll of 1,000 people by the research consultancy shows that just over half of people now say they trust charities ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’, down from 66 per cent in 2013.

Charities have dropped to seventh in a list of the most trusted institutions, from fourth last year. They have been overtaken by the royal family, schools and small businesses, according to the research, published today.  

The Armed Forces, the NHS and the Scouts and Guides are top three in the list, with levels of trust at 70 per cent, 68 per cent and 64 per cent respectively, it finds.  

Political parties and the government are bottom of the list with levels of trust at 12 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

The survey, carried out in April, shows 28 per cent of people trust the Fundraising Standards Board but the same proportion have never heard of the regulator.

Trust in charities increased steadily from 2007 to 2010, rising from 42 per cent to 70 per cent over the period, the report shows. This was followed by a significant drop in trust in 2011 before it recovered through 2012 and 2013.

In 2011, public trust across institutions and public bodies dropped, it says.

Meanwhile, levels of trust in the FRSB, which was 22 per cent in 2007, have remained "low and fairly static” over time, the report says. Although previous research by nfpSynergy has found fundraising standards and membership of the FRSB have been identified by the public, when prompted, as likely to encourage trust in a particular charity.

This year's survey asked respondents which statements would reassure them about making a donation or convince them a charity was doing a good job.

Seventy per cent said ‘every new charity being scrutinised by the Charity Commission before approval’ was quite or very reassuring.

The survey shows 67 per cent want to see ‘every charity’s accounts on the Commission’s website’ and 68 per cent want to see an annual review of a charity’s costs to ensure they are as low as possible.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said: “Our research shows that trust in charities is highly volatile and can never be taken for granted. Having seen a rise in trust in 2012 and 2013, it has fallen from 66 per cent to 56 per cent this year. It’s hard not to wonder whether the revelations over chief executive pay and some of the stories about alleged donations to terror groups in Syria have played their part.

“Our research shows that there are ways that every charity can reassure people that a donation is well spent. It’s clear that the role of the Commission is absolutely central in building trust in charities. Charities need to scream and shout about how they are regulated as it’s a practical way that charities can try and boost their trust levels.”

Rebecca Worth
Regional Fundraising Manager

14 Jul 2014

I was intrigued to read this article in this months fundraising magazine. Is there any information available on the reasons why the 1000 people questioned chose the answers they did about their trust in charities?

Pat Graham
Managing Director
Lifelong Ascents Ltd
25 Jun 2014

I am one member of the public who is less trusting of Charities and have for over 20 years taken part in fundraising and as a business sponsored many people.
I guess my eyes were opened when I accepted a role as a Trustee of a Charity and was shocked at the lack of training for Trustees on the key issues of roles/responsibilities and Governance. When I read of problems encountered by charities in the press for e.g. Greenpeace as a current charity, I question how robust and effective the board of trustees are on matters of governance. As a once contributor, I now think that charities no longer have my trust at 100% (now pegged at 40%) nor do they earn the right for me to continue giving In Scotland and being widely networked, I have in an ad hoc way enquired from other trustees about their training and views on feeling equipped for the role they have on a charities board. Before giving or sponsoring others, I now do some research into the running of the charities on my radar and look at issues including governance, how budgets are spent on for example marketing/general expenses/salaries before deciding to support. In my view more training/development and the strengthening of the role of OSCR is required to enable a higher level of performance around governance/board of trustees performance. Contributing to charities in the form of fundraising/taking part in events/volunteering as a trustee is a wonderful aspiration and enables many charities deliver valuable services in terms of support and resources. Raising the bar in terms of governance/engagement with the public/levels of transparency/and trustee training is essential towards establishing higher levels of trust in the charities sector.

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