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Public Trust in UK Charities at Record Low

30 June 2016 at 9:02 am
Lina Caneva
Public trust and confidence in UK charities has fallen to the lowest recorded level since monitoring began in 2005, according to a new report by the UK Charity Commission.

Lina Caneva | 30 June 2016 at 9:02 am


Public Trust in UK Charities at Record Low
30 June 2016 at 9:02 am

Public trust and confidence in UK charities has fallen to the lowest recorded level since monitoring began in 2005, according to a new report by the UK Charity Commission.

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The report produced by Populus showed that trust in charities had fallen from 6.7 out of 10 in 2014 to 5.7 this year.

The report found that the fall in trust and confidence could be attributed to critical media coverage of charity practices, distrust about how charities spend donations and a lack of knowledge among the public about where their donations go.

“Perceptions of aggressive fundraising tactics have also contributed to the decline in trust,” the report said.

The research is based on surveys of over 1,000 people conducted earlier this year, and on discussions with four focus groups.

Chairman of the Charity Commission William Shawcross said charities played a vital role in society, and this report showed that the public still overwhelmingly believes that.

“But public support cannot be taken for granted and these results show that action is needed to restore public confidence. These results are a call to action for everyone who values public trust in charities,” Shawcross said.

However the commission’s director of policy and communications, Sarah Atkinson, said a fall in trust was not unexpected after a very difficult year for charities.

“But if charities know what matters to the public, they can regain their trust. This research tells us a lot about the drivers of public trust,” Atkinson said.

“The public wants to see charities explain more and account better for how they manage and spend their money. They want to see honest and ethical fundraising, and they want to know that charities are making a positive difference to their causes. We can also see that when people know more about a charity their trust and confidence in charities generally increases.

“There are positive signs in the sector already, with a new fundraising regulator, a new Charities Act, and with many charities responding positively to the challenge to address public concerns. But there is more work to do to win back trust.”

The five main reasons people gave for trusting charities less were:

  1. Media stories about a charity/charities generally (33 per cent)
  2. Media coverage about how charities spend donations (32 per cent)
  3. Don’t trust them/I don’t know where the money goes (21 per cent)
  4. They use pressurising techniques, including in fundraising (18 per cent)
  5. Too much money is spent on advertising/wages (15 per cent)

A total of 63 per cent of the public’s trust was based on five factors.

The five drivers of public trust were:

  1. Make a positive difference to the cause they are working for (16 per cent)
  2. Ensure that a reasonable proportion of donations make it to the end cause (13 per cent)
  3. That they are well managed (12 per cent)
  4. Ensure that their fundraisers are honest and ethical (12 per cent)
  5. Make independent decisions to further the cause they work for (10 per cent)

The report said the survey revealed three key issues: accountability, management and fundraising.

Accountability and transparency

In the report 67 per cent thought that charities had spent too much of their funds on salaries and administration, up from 58 per cent in 2014. In the focus groups participants talked about a perceived lack of progress on many of the causes charities fight for, and a lack of feedback from charities explaining what they have done with donations.

Good management

Nine per cent of those surveyed said that the most important factor in their trust and confidence in charities was effective management, with management accounting for 12 per cent of the drivers of trust and confidence.


The report showed 74 per cent said some fundraising methods made them feel uncomfortable. This has been rising since 2010 (60 per cent) to 66 per cent in 2014. The public also agreed that high-pressure fundraising techniques like phone calls and street fundraising made them feel uncomfortable which, in turn, made them feel less inclined to give money.

The Commission

The report also showed that although most be people agreed that charities were regulated either fairly or very effectively, trust and confidence in the Charity Commission fell from 6 to 5.5.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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