16 Jul 2018

The Charity Commission has published the latest in a series of authoritative, independent studies examining the factors that the public associate with a trustworthy charity.

Charity Commission thumb

The new research reveals that, 'Being true to their values and the ability to demonstrate efficiency and impact" have joined transparency "as among the most important ingredients of trustworthiness in charities'. Demonstrating high standards of conduct and behaviour (being 'true to their values') is as important to trustworthiness as making a positive difference to a charity's cause.


The research identifies the key drivers of trust in charities as being:

  • transparent about where 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 Charity Commission says these findings underline that organisational ethos and values in charities matter to the public, and that rebuilding trust depends on behaviour change, not just on better communication.  

The research finds that public trust in charities has plateaued since 2016, and remains low at 5.5 out of 10. This means that he  public now trust charities less than they trust the average person in the street.  The Commission says that while trust in other social institutions has also declined, its aspiration is for charities to be among the most trusted institutions in society.

Baroness Stowell, Chair of the Charity Commission, welcomed the findings and urged charities to respond to them:

"Charitable endeavour is about benefiting society, adding value to our lives and communities - making the world a better place. This research shows that the public no longer give charities as institutions the benefit of the doubt in providing that value. What the public expect is not unreasonable: they want charities to be guided by their ethos and purpose in everything they do, and they want charities to use their money efficiently and responsibly. The public have seen evidence of charities failing to demonstrate these behaviours. So it is not surprising that trust has not recovered, and that the public are calling for greater transparency. This is proxy for a more profound issue:  the public want evidence that charities are what they say they are.

But this research also contains good news for charities and those who care about trust in charities: it shows 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.

Read the full Charity Commission press release

Download the report - Trust in Charities (2018)