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Trust in UK Charities Fluctuating


28 October 2014 at 10:33 am
Xavier Smerdon
Public trust in UK charities is lowest among people who see them as big and political, according a new poll.

Xavier Smerdon | 28 October 2014 at 10:33 am


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Trust in UK Charities Fluctuating
28 October 2014 at 10:33 am

Public trust in UK charities is lowest among people who see them as big and political, according a new poll.

The more the public associates charities with large, political organisations, the less they trust UK charities as a whole, according to new polling released by UK think tank NPC and Ipsos MORI.

The Poll found that more than one in three people have low levels of trust in the charity sector while trust fluctuates depending on the way people perceive the size and work of charities.

NPC said that with trust in UK institutions under sustained long-term pressure, from MPs to bankers and journalists, charities must start planning now to protect themselves against losing trust in the same way.

The NPC polling is published as the UK charity sector faces fresh controversies around political activity, executive pay and the right of charities to campaign and asked people what they thought about when they imagined charities, and looked at how this affected their confidence in charities as a whole.

NPC found that:

  •           More than one in three people have doubts about charities as a whole. 35 per cent have low levels of trust in charities (rating them five or less out of ten). Only 22 per cent are very positive (rating them at eight or higher)
  •           People are less trusting if they mostly see charities as international rather than national or local. Those who think of national or local charities, as opposed to international charities, are more likely to have high levels of trust (27 per cent vs 21 per cent )
  •           People are less trusting if they see charities as political. Those who think of charities which don’t get involved in politics, as opposed to those which do, are more likely to have high levels of trust (29 per cent vs 15 per cent )
  •           People are more trusting if they see charities as run by volunteers. Those who think of volunteer-led charities, as opposed to charities run by professionals, are more likely to have high levels of trust (28 per cent vs 22 per cent)

The polling also found a complex relationship between knowledge of charities and levels of trust.

The report said while higher levels of knowledge generally go hand-in-hand with higher levels of trust, this isn’t necessarily the case for all categories of people polled.

“This suggests there are more complex reasons for dissatisfaction than a simple lack of awareness—and therefore that improving people’s knowledge of charities may not on its own improve trust,” the report said.

·          The more people know about charities, the more they tend to trust them. 69% of people who say they know a great deal or fair amount about charity have high or medium trust in them—although 30 per cent of these people still say their trust in charities is low

·          The more contact people have with charities, the more they claim to know about them. For example, 70 per cent  of people who have volunteered for charities say they know a great deal or a fair amount about them, while only 30 per cent  of people who have no contact with charities claim the same.

·          A substantial chunk of the public neither knows about nor trusts charities. Overall 20 per cent of those who say they know little or nothing about charities also have little trust in them. There is a further group of 15 per cent who do know about charities, but still do not feel trusting towards them.

“Billions of pounds flow to UK charities every year, and many of them do fantastic work. But charities depend on the public for funding, volunteers and goodwill, so it is crucial that we understand how people view their work,” Chief Executive of NPC, Dan Corry said.

“Our new polling should act as a wake-up call. Public trust is likely influenced by recent high-profile controversies around pay and campaigning, and charities haven’t yet come up with a convincing response.

“The polling shows some intriguing views. Over half the people who imagine charities pursuing political activities continue to have faith in the sector, for example, so by no means is everyone uncomfortable with the idea.

“But the prevailing image to emerge from the polling is of more distrust for organisations seen to be large, professional and politicised—and the biggest challenge is for charities who most resemble this image.

“Charities need to address public concerns in a transparent, robust way. Where charities do terrific work, and can prove the positive impact they have on the lives of people who depend on them, they should be shouting this from the rooftops, starting now.”


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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