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Over half of public have not heard of Charity Commission, survey finds

Over half of public have not heard of Charity Commission, survey finds
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Over half of public have not heard of Charity Commission, survey finds1

Governance | Jonathan Last | 10 May 2012

Only 43 per cent of the public surveyed by nfpSynergy think that they have heard of the Charity Commission, the research consultancy has revealed.

In November 2011, nfpSynergy asked a nationally representative sample of 1,012 adults in Britain aged 16 and over questions about their awareness of the Commission. Results were compiled in Charity Awareness Monitor Results Sector Intelligence Wave 6 of 6.

Participants were asked to gauge how aware – on a scale from ‘definitely’ to ‘definitely not’ – they were about the Commission with regards to its work, its regulation methods, and its work in general.

Less than a third (30 per cent) of the public said they were "definitely aware" of the Charity Commission, while 13 per cent said they were "probably aware". Only a quarter (25 per cent) were "definitely aware" that the Charity Commission regulates and monitors the activities of charities.

The public sees the Commission’s prime functions as keeping a charity register and investigating fraudulent/bogus charities, but those surveyed were less aware of the Charity Commission and what it does now than seven years ago.

“Awareness of the Charity Commission is surely a vital ingredient of building public trust in charities,” said nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton. “If people aren’t aware of the charity regulator, it’s hard to see how they can be reassured by the regulation it does. It’s in every charity’s interest that the public knows about the Charity Commission and its work. This research shows we have a long way to go to achieve that goal.”

Speaking to civilsociety.co.uk Saxton added: “Very little that the Commission does would create profile. No shops, no fundraising campaigns, no PR campaigns.

“But it can’t act alone. Every charity should be making it clear that it is regulated by the Commission: on every email, letter and website – in large letters.

"The Commission really needs to cajole and do more to co-ordinate charities. The public likes to know that somebody is regulating charities – it’s their insurance policy against fraud and waste.”

Reacting to the survey, a spokeswoman at the Charity Commission pointed out that the regulator already measures public awareness of the Commission in its bi-annual public trust and confidence survey.

"Public trust and confidence in charities is directly linked to awareness of the regulator, as we have previously shown in our own research,” said the spokeswoman. “Whilst we obviously work to raise our profile within our resources, it is most definitely in the interests of the charity sector itself to emphasise that they are regulated and who the regulator is.

"The sector plays an integral role in maintaining and increasing trust in charities, by filing accounts on time and by working within the charity law framework."

She added that page 38 of their latest analysis (2010) shows that public awareness has remained steady since the last survey in 2008, at 53 per cent, and that the Commission is about to start its next bi-annual public trust and confidence survey.

Simon Merry
Director
Trust and Confidence by design
10 May 2012

An independent view of trust and confidence in this sector is valuable, however, the primary test is actual trust and confidence in charities rather than awareness of the watchdog! The effect of the mere presence of a regulatory body is a 'double edged sword' - it may provide reassurance but it also illustrates that charities can't manage themselves - so - I suspect that the simple presence of a watchdog is likely to have a neutral influence on public trust and confidence. It is what it does that is important. I am a little concerned about the scale utilised to gather the public view in this survey and I have some doubts about the findings, however, my primary concern is the impression given that promoting a regulatory body is more important than actually demonstrating trustworthiness.

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