Charities must communicate the importance of their work more effectively if they are to retain public trust in the future, according to Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission.
Younger was speaking last night on the future of charities at an annual event run by Charityworks, a professional development programme run by a partnership of charities.
He said that charities hold considerable public trust and confidence because of the traditional guarantee that they do not provide private benefit and are independent of government.
But he said that issues such as recent criticism about charities being politically motivated could in future undermine public trust. He said that the growth of closer working between charities and the private sector could also muddy the definition of charity in the public’s mind.
He said there was a danger that this lack of definition could dilute public trust and it was a challenge that the sector needed to address.
"I have a caricature scenario that you could get to a point where charities are defined so widely that they are reach the point of the name being meaningless," he said.
"It seems to me it could be quite possible you could get to that position, or move towards it, undermining public trust and confidence because of that lack of definition.
"The real worry at the end of that is that people would say: 'Why would I give money to a charity? How is it different from private business?’"
"It is going to require charities in particular to make much greater efforts to explain to the public exactly what it is they do, what it is that is charitable, where the public benefit is and why they should get their paws on people’s money, voluntary time or support."