How can charities maintain public trust?

Jun 23, 2021
Author: Simon Bladen
Simon is one of the firm's Audit Partners. Simon is responsible for looking after the firm’s legal, charitable and not-for-profit clients.
Charity public Trust

In recent years charities have often found themselves featuring in negative headlines on a somewhat regular basis. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for charities to all be tarred with the same brush. These negative stories often result in individuals losing faith or becoming less trustworthy of charities generally – unfair you may say, so how can charities prepare for these sorts of sudden eventualities?

Individuals hold charities to a higher standard

Public trust is key to the success of any charity. One of the key issues charities face is that rightly or wrongly the public holds charities to a higher moral and ethical standard than businesses. Individuals that donate often want to know exactly what their money is going towards and how it is going to impact a cause close to their heart. This added emotional connection can have a huge impact on charitable giving when negative headlines about the sector surface.

Communication is key

If and when a negative story does develop it is important that the charity in question responds to the story in a quick and effective manner. History has taught us that attempting to cover up wrongdoings is not only a morally poor choice, but also rarely works. Failing to communicate clearly will only harm public trust more in the long term. News headlines will often take the situation out of context. One of the most effective ways to regain public trust is to publish communications that fully explain the details of a situation in context and what the charity is planning to do moving forward to ensure adverse events do not reoccur.

Public trust

Gaining an understanding of public opinion incorporates many factors including background information and current circumstances. The Charity Commission carried out an interesting survey in 2020 which considered the state of the charity sector in the eyes of the general public.

At the beginning of the last decade trust levels in charities were at a mean trust level of 6.6 out of 10. However, in the last five years trust levels began to decrease to 5.7 in 2016 and a low of 5.5 in 2018 before increasing to 6.2 in 2020 (data from Charity Commission for England and Wales). The 2016 data cited that media coverage affected the majority of people whose trust in charities decreased. This further demonstrates the importance of managing public perception when responding to adverse news stories regarding the sector.

How can we help?

At Hawsons we have a dedicated team of charity and not-for-profit accountants at our offices in Sheffield, Doncaster, and Northampton. Our dedicated team fully understands the complex, ever-changing regulatory requirements of the charity and not-for-profit sector. Irrespective of your size we wish to support you to maximise the benefits you could achieve through our specialist professional advice.

Charities & not-for-profit organisations are currently facing extensive changes in their regulatory and legal framework. Given the additional pressures on fundraising, complex tax regimes, internal risk exposure and stakeholder demands, it has never been more important to obtain specialist professional advice.

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Simon Bladen


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