Public trust in charities remains high despite negative perceptions, NCVO report says

A review of three sector surveys published since the start of last year finds there is no change in the public's overall level of confidence in charities

National Council for Voluntary Organisations
National Council for Voluntary Organisations

The public’s overall level of trust and confidence in charities remains high, despite the emergence of "slightly more negative perceptions of certain aspects of charities’ conduct", says a report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The report, Trust and Confidence in Charities: an overview of the existing evidence, published last week, reviews the three major surveys on public trust published since the start of last year: the Charity Commission's Public Trust and Confidence in Charities, nfpSynergy's Charity Awareness Monitor and polling carried out by Ipsos Mori for the think tank NPC in January and October last year.

"Overall, most of the evidence finds no change in the public’s overall level of trust and confidence in charities, and trust in charities remains high in comparison with other public bodies and institutions," the NCVO report says.

It notes that studies by the commission and NPC had shown consistent high levels of trust, and that although nfpSynergy had found a fall in trust year on year, this measure had constantly been fluctuating in various studies by the consultancies over successive years.

The report continues: "There are, however, some slightly more negative perceptions of certain aspects of charities’ conduct, and some aspects are becoming an increasingly important factor to the public." In particular, the use of funds is becoming a key factor in people’s views about charities, including concerns about donations making it to the end cause, executive pay and running costs, the report says.

The reports also show higher levels of trust in charities among those who work in the sector or know people who do; lower levels of trust are found among those who know the least about charities.

Joy Dobbs, an independent research consultant who put together the report for the NCVO, said: "Over the past year or two, there has been concern that the public’s trust and confidence in charities might not be as strong as it was. Opinions are important, but at the NCVO we prefer to use evidence wherever we can."

She said that recent meetings of the Understanding Charities Group had concluded that charities should be proactive about upholding public trust. "To better target possible actions and activities, we might need further robust research to give us greater insight into what affects public trust and understanding," she said. "The existing evidence summarised here gives us only a partial picture."

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