Some 32 per cent of the public think there is not enough regulation for charities, according to a poll carried out for the Charity Commission.
Only 7 per cent think there is too much regulation, and 41 per cent think it is about right, according to the results of the 2017 Trust and Confidence in the Charity Commission research, published today by the Commission, which shows that overall trust in charities stands at 6.3 out of 10 - an increase on the last research, which showed trust at an all-time low of 5.7.
The sector as whole is more trusted than the fundraising industry, which had an overall score of 5.8. Charities scored higher than the affordable housing sector (4.3) but below colleges and further education institutions (7).
Awareness of the Commission had risen since research was carried out in 2015. In 2015 47 per cent of the public were aware of the Commission and this has risen to 61 per cent this year.
More people were also aware of benefiting from a charity’s services. In 2015 19 per cent of the public were aware of having benefited from or used a charity’s services this also rose, to 31 per cent in 2017.
The findings are part of research carried out into trust and confidence in the Charity Commission by Populus. They are based on 1,002 telephone interviews with the general public and 26 interviews with key stakeholders. It also carried out an online survey of 1,015 registered charities.
‘Appetite for us to do more’
The perception that charities are regulated effectively has declined from 65 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2017.
According to the Commission this suggests the public have higher expectations.
In a blog on the regulator’s website, Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications, said: “Whilst public trust held firm, perceptions of charity regulation as effective slipped (but remain positive overall). Conversely, whilst charities’ high level of trust in the Commission dipped slightly, 77 per cent of charities now say that regulation is effective.
“I think this may be indicative of rising public expectations – both of charities and of their regulator. The public are more aware of charities and the vital role they play.”
Some 47 per cent of the public survey said they thought the Commission was an effective regulator. This puts it above the Fundraising Regulator, which scored 32 per cent, and below the Food Standards Agency, which scored 77 per cent.
Charities were less likely to think that more regulation was needed, with just 16 per cent saying that there is too little, 55 per cent saying there was the right amount and 7 per cent saying there is too much.
Charging consultation ‘coming soon’
Atkinson added that the Commission is continuing to explore the possibility of large charities paying towards the regulator’s running costs.
This wills “allow us to develop and improve the key services from which the sector benefits,” she said.
“We also continue to make the case to the Treasury for our core funding to increase. These are difficult conversations to have, but we cannot avoid them, and we hope soon to secure Treasury agreement to consult publicly on our future funding.”
The Populus report found that only a “minority” of charity stakeholders were in favour of charging. It said the rest were split between those who were ambivalent or opposed.
Concerns about proposals to charge charities included independence of the regulator, ability of smaller charities to pay and the possibility that the government would further cut the Commission’s budget.
Stakeholders want clarity from the Commission
Over three quarters of charity respondents thought that the Commission is an effective regulator, placing it above all other regulators.
Charity respondents thought the General Medical Council was the next most effective regulator, with 51 per cent believing it to be effective.
Just 15 per cent of charity respondents thought the Fundraising Regulator is effective.
The Populus report noted a “degree of confusion” from charity sector stakeholders around the Commission’s future plans.
“Stakeholders generally think they have perceived a shift in how the Commission describes its role in the last year or so – from an approach focused on policing to one more focused on offering support – but there is some degree of confusion, and they think the organisation needs to be clearer about the direction in which it wants to move,” the report said.
Some 17 per cent of the public said they had a concern about a charity in the last year.
Nearly 60 per cent of those took no action and just 2 per cent contacted the Charity Commission. 14 per cent contacted the charity directly and another 14 per cent either stopped donating or unsubscribed from mailing lists.