The Charity Commission’s commentary around its trust research “perpetuates an unnecessarily negative narrative”, the chief executive of Acevo has said.
Vicky Browning, chief executive of charity sector leaders’ body Acevo, was responding the yesterday’s publication of the regulator’s latest research about trust in charities, which found charities had a mean trust rating of 5.5 out of 10 – which is slightly lower than two years ago and significantly lower than four years ago when it was 6.7.
The Commission said this is “unsatisfactory” and outlined its intention to rebuild public trust in partnership with the sector.
But Browning said that while the Commission’s research “provides useful benchmarking statistics” she is “concerned that the framing of the statistics perpetuates an unnecessarily negative narrative”.
She added that: “There is still work to be done across the sector to improve practices in a number of areas. But there is still a huge amount of positive and impactful activity happening day in, day out, which underpins our society, and much of which the public isn't thinking of when asked about levels of trust in charities.”
Browning said the Commission’s own research highlights that many respondents were not thinking of “local charities, cultural institutions or educational organisations, effectively meaning they were responding to questions with a very small proportion of the sector in mind”.
She said charities should not be complacent and be open to improving.
“I support the Charity Commission’s assertion that we should be focusing on impact, stewardship and values,” she said.
“However trust is not a static concept, and levels of trust vary across different communities and demographics. I encourage charity leaders to talk about trust with their beneficiaries, donors, volunteers and staff and to take action based on those insights.”
Other sector reaction
Aidan Warner, senior external relations officer at NCVO said: “We need to think of trust-building as a constant campaign for everyone in the sector, the success of which will be driven in large part by every charity being seen to live its values. I hope the forthcoming NCVO sector code of ethics can be helpful here.”
NPC’s chief executive, Dan Corry, reiterated his organisation’s position that charities should be better at reporting their impact.
“We believe that the Charity Commission could help with this by tightening its requirements for charities reporting their impact,” he said.
Sir John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said charities needed to listen to the demands for greater transparency.
He said: “The public has also asked for greater transparency from charities, especially around distribution of funds and how that money is spent. We must listen to them, as well as find new ways to be more open with the millions of people who give regularly.”