More than half of public have not heard of the Charity Commission, poll indicates

Research shows the sector has a long way to go in terms of public awareness of the regulator, says Joe Saxton of nfpSynergy

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy
Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy

Less than half of respondents to a new poll have heard of the Charity Commission, according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 1,000 people, carried out by the consultancy nfpSynergy in November and December, found that 43 per cent were probably or definitely aware of the regulator and 38 per cent were probably or definitely unaware of it. Nineteen per cent were not sure.

It found that 53 per cent of those who were aware of the commission knew that it registered charities, 45 per cent said the regulator investigated fraud and bogus charities, and 44 per cent said the commission ensured charities submitted regular accounts.

The proportion of people who were aware of the commission had fallen by five percentage points since the firm carried out a similar survey of about 1,000 people in May 2004. But the proportion who said they had not heard of the commission also fell by five percentage points since 2004, and there was a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion that did not know whether they had heard of the regulator.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said: "Awareness of the Charity Commission is surely a vital ingredient of building public trust in charities. If people aren’t aware of the charity regulator, it’s hard to see how they can be reassured by the regulation it does. It’s in every charity’s interest that the public knows about the Charity Commission and the work that it does. This research shows we have a long way to go to achieve that goal."

Saxton said it should not be the task of the regulator alone because "every charity should be doing its bit".

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "Public trust and confidence in charities is directly linked to awareness of the regulator, as we have previously shown in our own research. We obviously work to raise our profile within our resources, but it is most definitely in the interests of the charity sector itself to emphasise that it is regulated and who the regulator is.

"The sector plays an integral role in maintaining and increasing trust in charities, by filing accounts on time and by working within the charity law framework."

The commission’s own survey of public trust and confidence in charities in 2010 found that 53 per cent had heard of the regulator – one percentage point less than in 2008. The commission’s survey of more than 1,000 people was carried out by Ipsos Mori.

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