Australian Trust in Charities Still High But Dropping: New ACNC Report
22 November 2017 at 2:31 pm
A new report published by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) shows that public trust and confidence in charities remains strong but has dropped slightly since a 2015 survey.
The ACNC’s two-year Public Trust and Confidence report found that 86 per cent of Australians trusted charities, and 91 per cent currently supported them by volunteering or donating.
However the report said there had been a “steady decline in trust and confidence in Australian charities”.
“Since 2013, levels of trust and confidence in charities have decreased 13 percentage points. The level of trust in charities was 37 per cent in 2013, 30 per cent in 2015 and 24 per cent in 2017,” the report said.
“Those who [have an] outright distrust of charities (14 per cent) has increased significantly from the 2015 research (10 per cent).
“Older Australians (those aged 55-plus years old) are more likely than their younger counterparts to have high levels of trust.”
Acting ACNC commissioner Murray Baird said that the ACNC was established in part to maintain and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian charity sector.
“To set a benchmark we published the first Public Trust and Confidence report in 2013, and repeated it in 2015,” Baird said.
“In 2013 and 2015 the overall measure of trust and confidence was very high, with scores of 89 per cent and 90 per cent respectively. In 2017, this figure is still remarkably high, coming in at 86 per cent.
“Our research found that the small decline in the overall measure of trust is similar to the experience of other jurisdictions where a dedicated charity regulator was established over the past decade.
“Recent media reports alleging misconduct by charities are also likely to have negatively impacted on the reputation of the sector in general.
“However, the ACNC can confirm that the overwhelming majority of charities are doing the right thing. And where we have found evidence of misconduct by charities, we have and will continue to take firm action to protect charitable funds and beneficiaries.”
The research found that “worthiness of the charity cause” was the most influential driver of trust.
“The most important explicit factor influencing trust in charities is the perceived worthiness of the cause (53 per cent), followed by the proportion of funds going to those in need (51 per cent),” the report said.
“Australians think it is important for charities to provide information regarding donation use. It is evident that transparency around donation use is fundamental for establishing trust.
“Familiarity plays a significant role in trusting a charity. Over one third (36 per cent) strongly agree they trust charities they are familiar with – half (49 per cent) do not feel confident donating to a charity they do not know, regardless of the cause.”
The report also found that trust was underpinned by transparency – with 76 per cent of Australians stating that it was important that they know how charities used their donated dollar.
Baird said: “Charities provide vital services and support to our communities, however, this work would not be possible without the generosity of Australians, who contribute $11.2 billion in donations and bequests annually.
“Since the ACNC was established in December 2012, the level of transparency across the sector has “increased significantly” due to the introduction of the ACNC Charity Register,” he said.
“Each year registered charities are required to submit an Annual Information Statement and charities with annual revenue above $250,000 are also required to provide financial reports.
“Pleasingly, the latest Public Trust and Confidence report found that Australians believe that the ACNC Charity Register is very important.
“This is supported by figures reported in our 2016-17 annual report, which found that ACNC Charity Register searches have increased every year since the ACNC was established.”
The research revealed that there was an underlying assumption that a specialised body already existed without knowing who it was.
“This was based on the belief that any sector accountable for a large sum of money should be regulated,” the report said.
The report said there was room for improvement on educating the general public about the functions the ACNC performs.
“In terms of awareness of the ACNC and the perceived importance of the regulator, two in five (41 per cent) Australians are aware of a regulatory body, 41 per cent think there is a regulatory body for the charity sector, in line with 2015, while unprompted awareness of the ACNC marginally increased,” the report said.
“Those aware of the ACNC state they are significantly more informed about the functions the ACNC perform (64 per cent).”
The Public Trust and Confidence report is available here.