"I know the charity follows high standards in its fundraising": this was the box most often ticked by the 1,000 adults asked in the latest nfpSynergy Charity Awareness Monitor survey about what made them trust a charity. Forty-six per cent of respondents went for this statement, followed by 39 per cent who chose "I have had contact with the charity personally".
The next question is: what do we mean by high standards? The best generally agreed guide is to be found in the codes of practice of the Institute of Fundraising, which are used as benchmarks by the Fundraising Standards Board when it considers complaints. Of these codes, the most significant is the one on direct mail, because mail is what attracts most complaints - more than 19,000 in 2008.
The fly in the ointment is that not all fundraisers are members of the institute, and not all charities are members of the FRSB. Infringements of the code of practice are most likely to be committed by non-members, who are at liberty to lift two fingers to both organisations. Some of them do, as we reported last week: several non-members approached by the institute about the quality of their direct mail have responded in a way the institute deems "concerning".
Some people have their doubts about the decision by the institute and the FRSB to try to persuade non-members to abide by the code. But the new nfpSynergy research confirms they are on the right track and should give them fresh heart.
A minority of charities go for quick returns using exploitative and manipulative methods that do little to enhance the vital factor of trust in the sector. The institute and the FRSB should continue to use all the means legally at their disposal to encourage all fundraisers and charities to buy in to the self-regulation project.