New Forest


Trust in the charity sector

Public perception of the charity sector is improving, as demonstrated by recent research commissioned by CCEW. Three years ago trust in charities hit an all-time low following several high-profile scandals, but an independent study by Yonder shows that charities are among the most trusted groups in society, third only after doctors and the police.

The improvement seems to have arisen in part as a consequence to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role the charity sector has played in responding to the crisis, in areas such as support for the NHS and other key workers, and tackling food poverty. These findings are supported by separate research by nfpSynergy and Pro-Bono Economics, which showed that giving to charities rose during the pandemic, although around half of all charities have reported a fall in overall income due to the inability to hold fundraising events or raise income from retail activities. The report highlighted the uneven impact the pandemic has had on the sector and that not all charities will have had similar experiences, with larger charities better able to adapt and raise funds from alternative sources compared to smaller organisations.

Charities cannot be complacent though as trust remains fragile. Further work remains needed if the sector is to consistently meet the high expectations placed upon it and return to the levels of trust seen a decade ago. To do so charities should address the public’s key drivers of trust, namely:

  • to demonstrate that they make a positive difference to society;
  • to spend a high proportion of funds on delivering charitable activities; and
  • to live their values through their behaviours and actions.

CCNI has also published research on public trust and confidence in charities, which echoed the findings of CCEW in reporting that 84% of the public had a medium to high level of trust in charities. Areas identified that can negatively impact on trust an apparent failure to deliver on their core objectives, aggressive fundraising methods and perceived excessive remuneration being paid to charity executives.

Research such as this can prove to be a useful tool for trustees to highlight areas that need to be addressed in their own charities to improve levels of trust and confidence in the work they do.

Guidance: CCEW


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