Public trust and confidence in charities

Trust in charities remains high according to independent research by Ipsos MORI conducted on behalf of the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.

Charities received a trust score of 6.7 out of 10 overall, in line with previous research findings, showing that public trust and confidence in charities is resilient. Only the police, with a score of 7, and doctors with a score of 7.6 are trusted more than charities.

However, the research indicates a shift in public opinion in certain areas. People are now attaching greater importance to good financial management by charities.

Almost half of people cite 'ensuring a reasonable proportion of donations gets to the end cause' as the most important factor affecting their trust in charities and the importance of this has risen since the last research in 2012. The public are interested in whether charities explain what they do, with 96 percent of people saying that 'it is important that charities provide the public with information about how they spend their money'.

In addition, 62 percent of people, compared with 68 percent in 2010, trust charities to work independently, and the proportion of people who agree that charities are trustworthy and act in the public interest has fallen from 75 percent in 2010 to 71 percent.

Nonetheless, the number of people who report that they have benefitted from a charity, or have friends or family who have benefitted has grown hugely in recent years from nine percent in 2005 to 40 percent in 2014. The Commission believes that this bodes well for public trust and confidence in the long term because there is evidence that familiarity with charities tends to lead to higher trust.

The report also offers insight into the public's views of charity regulation, with 68 percent of people agreed that charities are regulated either 'fairly or very effectively'.

Other key findings from the research include that:

  • 90 percent agree that it is important that charities use their annual report to explain what they have achieved;
  • 35 percent say that they trust a particular charity or type of charity less because they do not know how they spend their money;
  • Four fifths of people feel that charities provide something unique to society and almost three quarters believe that charities are effective at bringing about social change. Agreement with both statements has increased slightly since 2012;
  • The proportion of people who would be more confident in a charity providing a public service than another type of service provider has declined from 25 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2014; and
  • 34 percent say their trust in charities has increased cite their experience of charities' services at the reason.

Similar research published by nfpSynergy echoes the finding that public trust in charities cannot be taken for granted. That research focused on public trust in fundraising and fundraising regulation.

To download the full report visit www.charitycommission.gov.uk/media/618419/public-trust-and-confidence-in-charities-final-200614.pdf.