Public trust in Scottish charities rises, regulator's figures show

Public trust in charities in Scotland has increased over the past two years, according to new figures from the regulator.

Research by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator involved asking charities about the challenges they faced and examining their perception of issues including transparency.

It also asked the public about their level of trust in charities, attitudes towards regulation and explored the impact of regulation on trustworthiness.

The survey was carried in partnership with the market research organisation Breaking Blue, and collated views from 1,010 Scottish adults and 1,102 charity representatives.

It includes findings from four focus groups with members of the general public, and 11 in-depth telephone interviews with charities.

The research revealed that public trust had increased to an average score of seven out of 10 in 2020, up from 6.1 in 2018.

Average trust was strongest for charities working solely in Scotland (7.2), charities that worked only with volunteers (7.2), and charities working locally (7.1).

Figures in June from the Charity Commission showed public trust in charities in England and Wales was up, while figures earlier this month from the research consultancy nfpSynergy showed it had fallen.

The importance of a charity’s cause was the most common reason for choosing to support it (56 per cent of those who donate), according to the OSCR's research, followed by trustworthiness (44 per cent).

Researchers found that 93 per cent of Scottish adults had given money, time or goods to a charity in the past year.

The survey also showed that 58 per cent of the public said knowing how much of a donation went to the cause, and 55 per cent said seeing evidence of what the charity had achieved, would make them feel a charity was trustworthy.

Only one in seven charities (14 per cent) said that ensuring the public had access to annual reports and accounts was mainly the responsibility of individual charities, and only one in six view being transparent and accountable as mainly a charity’s responsibility (16 per cent).

In both cases, 40 per cent viewed these responsibilities as down to the regulator, while a further 40 per cent believed the responsibility was shared.

The fieldwork for the research was undertaken in February and March, before the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures.

Maureen Mallon, chief executive of the OSCR, said: “An improvement in public trust is recognition of the important work conducted by Scottish charities and third sector support organisations.”

But Mallon also said that the importance of trust should not be underestimated by charities because they were not just accountable to the Scottish regulator, but also to the public, beneficiaries, communities and funders.

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