Charities – a matter of trust

The reputation of the charity sector has taken a bit of a battering over recent years due to issues with fund raising methods, financial mismanagement and, more recently, the behaviour of charity staff.

Whilst the issues reported about Kids Company and Oxfam are not symptomatic of wider sector issues, their high profile has had an impact on how the public see charities.

This has been supported by a recent Charity Commission report which shows that public trust in charities has been falling. There was a significant reduction in this trust in 2014 when the first of the recent charity scandals occurred, and that trust has continued to decline since then.

The public now trust charities less than they trust the average person in the street! This will clearly affect the ability of charities to raise money from the public, and also their perception of the services that charities are providing.

Helpfully, the Charity Commission report also comes up with some suggestions about how charities can improve as organisations and recover the perception that the public has of them.

Baroness Stowell, Chair of the Charity Commission, said that: “the answer is not to impose more rules and procedures or to tick more boxes, it is about attitude, ethos and culture. If we together respond to these findings and ensure everything charities do is driven by their purpose, we can reverse the decline in trust. And more important than that: charities will improve as organisations, and as a result make a bigger impact on the lives of their beneficiaries, and in their communities and for society as a whole.”

The key findings of the report were that the principal drivers of trust in charities are being:

  • Transparent about where the money goes
  • True to their values
  • Efficient in their use of resources
  • Well governed and well managed
  • Able to demonstrate making a positive difference.

The surprise here is that being able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the charity is less important to trust then being transparent and being true to the values of the charity. So, what has the most impact on the public level of trust is not what you do but how you do it.

These findings will influence how the Charity Commission regulates the sector going forwards, and this should also impact on how individual charities interact with their funders and how they raise their profile.

Hopefully, by acting on these findings it will enable the public to regain its trust in the charity sector – and this will be beneficial for us all.

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