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.”