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Trust in charities down over 10 percentage points since last General Election.

  • Charities rally to rank third most trusted UK institution, behind army / NHS, but sector has long-term ‘trust volatility’ second only to banks
  • Charities trusted most by women, under-45s, donors and worshippers; with different trust-triggers for different demographs
  • Age/size of charity, brand awareness, charitable cause and external events also all impact on trust
  • “Charity Commission’s statutory duty, alone, cannot build public trust in charities. Sector-wide strategy needed”, says nfpSynergy’s Saxton

Public trust in charities has rollercoastered (slide 2) from a 5-year high of 70% back in Jan 2010 – pre the May 2010 General Election – to a low of 53% in Jan 2011, before rallying to 59% in most recent polling (July 2011), according to a briefing out today.

Moreover, although the British public currently trust charities more than any other public body or institution apart from the Armed Forces and NHS (slide 3), an analysis of trust levels over the past 5 years - including a low of 42% in July 2007 - shows the charity sector (28%, high-low variance) has a ‘trust volatility’ (slides 4) second only to banks (29% high-low variance, slide 5). Interestingly, many other bodies seem rather more stable (slides 6-7), regardless of whether they are in fact highly trusted (like the Armed Forces, 4% high-low variance) or very little trusted (like political parties, 3% high-low variance).
The briefing, by leading not-for-profit sector research consultancy nfpSynergy, analyses how much trust a representative sample of 1000 16+ year olds throughout mainland Britain place in a range of public bodies and institutions – with data spanning the past 5 years, from 2006. This includes the largest and longest data set in existence specifically concerning trust in charities. Pertinently, the Charities Act 2006 – now undergoing a review, the findings of which will be presented to parliament next summer - places a statutory duty on the Charity Commission to build public trust in charities.
Its other findings show that charities are trusted most by women, under-45s, donors and worshippers; that drivers of trust also vary by demographic (eg ‘high standards in fundraising’ and ‘funding from government’ are more important for older people, ‘personal contact’ mattering more for the mid-ages); that age/size of charity, brand awareness and type of cause - not to mention sheer external events - all have a bearing on trust; and that trust is by no means easy to change directly - taking time and focus, plus consistency and targeting of message.

nfpSynergy’s Driver of Ideas, Joe Saxton, comments:

“Public trust in charities matters. People expect a trusted charity sector to fundraise responsibly, spend donations wisely and deliver services effectively – an expectation that is likely to rise in current climes. However, our research shows that – despite trust in charities currently rallying after a post-election slump that might have been fuelled by factors such as suspicions over the ‘Big Society’ concept, and government funding cuts – such charitable trust is also inherently relatively volatile, and cannot be taken for granted.
The Charities Act 2006 places a statutory duty on the Charity Commission to build public trust in charities. The ongoing review of this legislation - the findings of which will be presented to parliament next summer - must surely underline this duty, and the need for the Charity Commission to more fully monitor such crucial yet seemingly unstable trust levels. However, statutory duty alone is not enough. The task cannot be left just to the Charity Commission. 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.”

MEDIA COMMENT: To interview nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton about these findings, please contact him direct on 07976 329 212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net; or, alternatively, contact Adrian Gillan (0774 086 7215; E: adrian@gillanmedia.com) for further assistance.

Note to editors:

nfpSynergy (www.nfpsynergy.net) is the UK’s only research consultancy dedicated to the charity sector and not-for-profit issues. It provides ideas, insights and information to help voluntary and community organisations thrive in an ever-changing world. Regularly harvesting the social and charity-related views of public and parliament, media and business - not to mention not for profit organisations themselves - nfpSynergy has a vast and ever-growing knowledge pool from which to extract and deliver insights.




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Trust in Charities 2006 to 2011

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