Adeela Warley: Charities must find a way out of the trust deficit

As recent research highlights a decline in trust across all sectors, charities must seize the opportunity to accelerate positive change

Fluctuating trust in our sector is occupying minds and column inches, and for charity communicators we know it matters. Strong, resilient brands are the bedrock of trust and engagement. 

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer shows a decline in trust across business, NGOs, government and the media around the world, not just here in the UK. 

Surprisingly, perhaps, business is currently out in front and is seen as being most competent and increasingly ethical. Not surprisingly, the barometer highlights “information bankruptcy”: the disbelief in information from all sources. 

The job of building trust is never done. It is core to everything we do. The rise of purposeful business could rob charities of our distinctive social role. 

But perhaps the way out of the trust deficit is to build bridges across the sectoral divides; form partnerships of diverse skills; produce quality information; and work with authoritative experts to craft clear and authentic messages. 

The RSPCA is heading in this direction by putting partnerships at the heart of its strategy, and right now we see volunteering organisations working with the government to support the vaccinations roll-out, while food banks are collaborating with supermarkets, farmers and hauliers to ensure supplies reach people who most need help.

Acting and speaking together is always more powerful than acting alone.

Now is the time to demonstrate the relevance and distinctive role charities of all sizes play – jumping the trust gap to accelerate positive change. 

It may not be easy, but it’s an opportunity that is too good to ignore. As the poet Amanda Gorman said at US President Joe Biden’s inauguration: “Victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.”  

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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