The Charity Commission has published research conducted by Ipsos MORI which reveals that the public in England and Wales continues to trust charities, sees them increasingly as essential, but has concerns over some fundraising methods.
According to the research 96% of people believe that charities' role is essential, very important or fairly important. The number of people who feel that charities play an essential role in society has increased from 30% in 2010 to 37% this year.
In the same period, public trust in charities has remained high, with only the police and doctors being more trusted. Three quarters (74%) agree that charities are trustworthy and act in the public interest.
Fundraising of course has a significant impact on the public's attitude to charities and their levels of trust. Of those questioned, 67% agree that some fundraising methods used by charities make them uncomfortable. This has increased from 60% in 2010.
The Commission's quantitative research did not delve further to find out which types of fundraising made people feel uncomfortable. However, supporting qualitative research, based on in-depth interviews with a small number of people, suggests that people dislike "aggressive" forms of fundraising. Ipsos
MORI's previous research also reports that people say they dislike negative emotive imagery, preferring positive imagery that highlights the impact donations might have on the lives of beneficiaries.
There is also a high level of public concern (59%) about the amount of money that charities are believed to spend on salaries and administration.
What can charities do to retain trust?
Tell them how you spend their money and benefit the public: The public's view on the importance of communicating key information to them has remained unchanged: 96% of people surveyed said that charities must provide the public with information on ‘how they spend their money’ and 94% said they must do so on ‘how they benefit the public’.
The most common reason why some charities are trusted less is not knowing how their money is spent: 36% who trust certain charities less than others mentioned this concern.
Experiencing what you do counts: the most common reason given (by 38%) for trusting a charity more is having seen or experienced what they do. Similarly, familiarity with charities has a strong bearing on trust with 82% of the public trusting charities more if they have heard of them.
Local impact helps: 59% of people agree they trust charities more if they are providing services within their local community
Engage with the media: The role of the media seems to cut both ways: 22% of people cite media coverage about how charities spend donations as a reason why they think their confidence has decreased in the past two years. Yet, amongst people whose confidence in charities has increased, 8% attribute this to media stories about how charities spend their donations.
Commenting on the report, Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission, said: "I am delighted that these research findings confirm that public trust and confidence in charities remains high. During these difficult economic times for charities, I hope the sector will take heart from this vote of confidence, and be reassured that the public recognises the essential role charities play in our society."
A Commission spokesperson added that they hoped that "all charities [become] aware of and understand the joint responsibility that the charity sector and charity regulator have in protecting the current high levels of public trust and confidence in charities".
Ipsos MORI spoke to 1,142 adults aged 18+ in England and Wales from 4-21 May 2012. Interviews were conducted by telephone.