Public think small charities are least wasteful and closest to beneficiaries

Survey finds larger charities are considered more professional but less careful with money

From small to large: what people think of charities
From small to large: what people think of charities

Large charities are seen as more wasteful and having a poorer understanding of their beneficiaries than small ones, according to a new poll.

Research organisation nfpSynergy surveyed 1,000 people last November. Fifty-one per cent of those polled said the statement "they are often wasteful in how they spend money" applied to charities with annual incomes of more than £10m.

Only 6 per cent said the statement was true for charities with incomes of less than £1m a year.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents said they believed small charities were good at understanding the needs of their beneficiaries; 35 per cent said the same of large charities.

Rebecca Molyneux, a researcher at nfpSynergy, said: "A small, local charity may be well placed to harness the goodwill of a loyal hardcore of donors, like some plucky voluntary David against the charitable Goliaths. "These figures could allow large and small charities to play to perceived reputational strengths and address or downplay apparent weaknesses."

Cath Lee, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said the findings were confusing. She said she would expect people who thought large organisations were more professional would also think they were less wasteful.

"A charity doesn't need a swanky office to be professional," she said. "And most small charities don't have the time or money to address public perceptions of them."

Sixty-two per cent of respondents thought the chief executives of small charities were usually volunteers, but only 1 per cent thought this was true of chief executives of large charities. Sixty-five per cent said they thought large charities usually paid their chief executives about £100,000 per year.

Almost two-thirds, 62 per cent, said they were just as likely to trust small charities as large ones. And 34 per cent said they were more likely to trust small charities than large ones.

Almost a quarter of those polled, 23 per cent, said they would prefer to give money to a charity working in their nearest town.

More communications news at

(Respondents could select statement for more than one size of charity)

The first percentage in the sequences below relate to small charities (income less than £1m), the second to medium ones (income between £1m and £10m) and the third to large (income above £10m)

They are usually quite
professional in their approach
24% 54% 62%

They are often wasteful in how
they spend money
6% 17% 51%

They are generally trustworthy
55% 47% 41%

They are good at understanding
the needs of the people
they exist to help
65% 44% 35%

They are usually friendly
70% 39% 20%

They are usually a bit
amateurish in their approach
45% 5% 2%

Base: 1,000 adults 16+, Britain
Source: Charity Awareness Monitor, Nov 09, NFPSynergy

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