YouGov’s 2015 CharityIndex, which was compiled using data on public perceptions of charities on a daily basis, says the sector’s average "buzz score" – a metric that measures whether people have heard anything good or bad about a charity in the previous fortnight – fell from 4.7 to 3.1 across the whole general public for the second year in a row and from 73.3 to 69.4 among people who are aware and engaged in the sector.
A spokesman for YouGov said none of the charities tracked by the company improved their average buzz scores last year.
Of the charities in last year’s top 10, only the Dogs Trust’s score has stayed the same, while scores for the others have all declined.
Briony Gunstone, associate director in public services and not-for-profit at YouGov, said the decline in the sector's buzz score was probably due in great part to the series of negative headlines about charities over the past year.
Researchers interviewed more than 100 people each day on subjects such as the charities they had discussed with friends and family and the charities they had heard of. The rankings were compiled from score averages from across the year.
Only one of the top 10 charities – the British Red Cross – has an international focus, which YouGov said was surprising in a year dominated by global calamities such as the war in Syria and the migrant crisis. "This hints at how difficult it can be for aid charities to create a constant noise about the vital work they are doing," said Gunstone.
YouGov said that the rise up the rankings of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home was due partly to its ability to reach consumers outside its geographic base in London and the home counties through high-profile media opportunities, including Paul O’Grady’s ITV documentary programme For the Love of Dogs.
Two charities – Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Royal British Legion – are ranked joint seventh and four – Marie Curie, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the Red Cross and the National Trust – are ranked joint tenth.
The National Trust has entered the list from joint 13th place last year, and Guide Dogs has been knocked off 10th place, falling to joint 14th.
Six of the charities in YouGov’s index are also in the top 10 of Third Sector’s Charity Brand Index.
The top 10 (last year’s ranking in brackets)
1 Macmillan Cancer Support (1)
2 Cancer Research UK (2)
3 Help for Heroes (3)
4 RNLI (8)
5 British Heart Foundation (4)
6 Dogs Trust (9)
7 Alzheimer’s Research UK (N/A)
= Royal British Legion (5)
9 Alzheimer’s Society (N/A)
10 Marie Curie (10)
= Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (N/A)
= British Red Cross (7)
= National Trust (13)