Public trust in charities is unstable, survey shows

Trust levels varied by up to 28 percentage points between 2006 and 2011

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

The public's trust in charities is second only in volatility to its trust in banks, according to new research by the consultancy nfpSynergy.

It asked 1,000 nationally representative adults in England, Scotland and Wales in July how much trust they had in 24 different types of public bodies and institutions, such as supermarkets, insurance companies and the BBC. Charities were trusted by 59 per cent of respondents, up from 53 per cent in January.

The report, Trust in public bodies and institutions: 2006-2011, also shows the proportion of people who said they have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in charities varied by 28 percentage points in surveys carried out over the past five years.

Trust in charities varied between a high of 70 per cent in January 2010 and a low of 42 per cent in July 2007. Trust in banks varied by 29 per centage points over the same period, but at a much lower level: between 41 per cent in September 2006 and 12 per cent in July 2009.

Charities were the third most trusted group in the most recent survey, carried out in July this year. The army had the highest level, with 75 per cent of people saying they had a great deal or quite a lot of trust in it, and the NHS was second, with 62 per cent.

Respondents were also asked what made them trust charities, with answers from a list of set options. The most popular was knowing that the charity followed high standards in their fundraising, chosen by 52 per cent of people. The next most popular was if a friend or family member had had contact with the charity, on 47 per cent.

The least popular option was the charity being supported by a celebrity, which only 5 per cent of people chose.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said that although the Charity Commission had a statutory duty to build public trust in charities, this was not enough.

"The task cannot be left just to the Charity Commission," he said "Charities need a better understanding of what influences trust and, above all, we need a sector-wide strategy to establish trust on a more stable footing," he said.

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