Trust in charities down by six points in the past year, survey finds

According to the research, by nfpSynergy, 54% of respondents said they trusted charities 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot', down from 60% the year before

Public trust is down
Public trust is down

Trust in charities has fallen by six percentage points over the past year, according to a survey conducted shortly after the Oxfam scandal broke.

Trust in Charities and the Overseas Development Sector, published today by the not-for-profit research consultancy nfpSynergy, reveals that 54 per cent of 1,000 adults said they trusted charities "a great deal" or "quite a lot", compared with 60 per cent a year earlier.

Fieldwork for the latest survey was carried out between 22 February and 2 March. The first newspaper article about Oxfam staff in Haiti appeared on 9 February.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said it was difficult to say whether the six-point decline was the beginning of a long-term trend.

He said trust in charities was traditionally volatile and the 54 per cent score was considerably better than the 47 per cent figure obtained in October 2015 and only one percentage point below the 55 per cent mark registered in August 2017.

The survey also revealed significant differences in trust in specific charity sectors: 76 per cent of respondents said they trusted cancer charities, but only 32 per cent said they trusted religious charities.

Eleven of the 15 charity sub-sectors listed in the survey actually improved their marks for trust from February 2017 to February 2018.

However, trust in the overseas aid and development sector declined from 40 per cent to 36 per cent.

Saxton said the survey showed overseas aid charities were "ripe for punishing" because they were viewed negatively even before the Oxfam story broke.

"They are trusted less and are seen to need less money, probably as a result of negative media coverage and hostility towards the government's 0.7 per cent aid spending in recent years," he said.

"The Oxfam scandal has reinforced the negative views of many about overseas charities and left the rest of the charity sector relatively unscathed – for now.

"Given how volatile trust in charities is, there is nothing for anybody to be complacent about. As the Oxfam scandal shows, a media storm about almost any aspect of charities is only just around the corner."

CAF UK Giving 2018, published this week by the Charities Aid Foundation, said trust in charities had remained stable over the past year at 51 per cent.

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