Charities are underestimating the value of public trust and they should all be working to improve it, a new article claims.
The article, co-authored by Jill Halford and Neil Sherlock of the professional services firm PwC, says trust is "often an overlooked asset for charities".
Trust typically features on the agenda only when things are going wrong, the article says, with research showing that nearly a third of charity leaders think a loss of trust in the sector would have no effect on their organisation.
"But trust matters deeply to people, and so it should matter to the organisations that serve them," it says.
"Trust is considered a fundamental prerequisite of effective human interaction and meaningful, constructive relationships. It is the ‘glue’ that binds society and the economy together. There is a clear need for all organisations to take a broader view of trust."
In order to build trust with the public, Halford and Sherlock say, charities should focus on such areas as "engaging with their stakeholders and the public in an authentic way" and ensure that they are consistent in their communication with the public.
Charities should also engage in what the authors call "radical transparency", meaning they should demonstrate their willingness to be open about their operations and be honest when things have not gone to plan.
"Trust is precious and fragile, so building and maintaining trust with the public needs to be at the heart of any charity’s strategy and operations," the article says.
"Just as businesses are considering their wider societal impact and purpose, charities too need to consider their impact and the relevance of their actions."
The authors say charities should be leading the way in measuring and demonstrating their impact.
"Engaging with the public proactively, communicating clearly and authentically and considering your total impact will not only help in times of crisis, but also form critical building blocks to continued success," the article says.
The essay is one in a series of provocative articles about the voluntary sector published by the think tank NPC last week.