Public trust in charities falls despite faith in many institutions reaching record highs

Public trust in charities has dipped despite belief in many institutions reaching record highs during the coronavirus pandemic, new research shows. 

Figures from the research consultancy nfpSynergy, which conducts regular polls on public trust in a range of institutions and sectors, show the proportion of people who said they trusted charities “quite a lot” or “a great deal” fell from 63 per cent in November last year to 59 per cent in August. 

This is despite many institutions – including the NHS, supermarkets, small businesses and the Royal Mail – recording record high levels of public trust over the summer months. 

Trust in government reached a record high of 33 per cent in May and even institutions not directly related to the pandemic have seen increases in public trust in them during the outbreak. 

Public trust in charities reached a recent high of 66 per cent in May 2013, but fell to a recent low of 53 per cent two years later. 

In a blog post about the figures, Cian Murphy, co-managing director of nfpSynergy, said it might be expected that trust in charities would have risen “as word gets out to the public of the excellent work that charities have been doing throughout the pandemic in ensuring that people remain safe and supported”. 

He said one explanation for trust in charities bucking the general trend could be that the pandemic response it too big for the sector and the public struggled to see the its role in reacting to the crisis. 

“This is something we have seen before in qualitative research on the subject of climate change, where many donors struggle to make the link between charitable giving and real-life impact on the climate," he said. 

But he said another explanation could be that the public had not been very impressed with the work of charities during the pandemic so far. 

“Our polling with the general public on the subject of the coronavirus and charities suggests that around half of the public have been impressed by the response of charities to the pandemic,” he said. 

“While we in the sector know the quality of work being done by charities every day in helping society through the panic, our evidence suggests that not enough is being done to communicate this to a public that is overloaded with information about the pandemic.”

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