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Trust in the charity sector

The Charity Commission carries out regular research on public trust in charities, and monitors fluctuations in the public mood. We understand this is because the Charity Commission’s purpose is “to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.” The Charity Commission has a role in ensuring that the public trusts charities.

At ACEVO we believe that there is significant work to be done across the sector to ensure public trust, through greater transparency, accountability and good practice in charities.

However, we also want to ensure that when the Charity Commission, sector or government discusses trust in charities we are clear about what data is telling us and the limits of that data. Trust is not a static concept and definitions and levels of trust vary across communities and demographics. It is notoriously difficult to measure trust. Whether the data from the Charity Commission shows a rise or fall in trust, at ACEVO we take the following approach:

  1. If we are to measure trust in the charity sector we need to ensure that the data is used in a sensitive, appropriate way. There also needs to be appropriate disclaimers about the limitations of data – whether the framing of research questions, collection of data, what can be understood from statistics, or the wider analysis it sits within.
  2. We need the Charity Commission to communicate what a charity is in law and how this allows for a wide range of operational forms. Improving public understanding of the sector is critical to allow the Charity Commission and charities to work well. This makes it easier for charities to be able to communicate how their decisions fit with regulations. It also supports individuals to know what behaviours they can appropriately report a charity to the Charity Commission for.
  3. Ideally, any reports on trust should be enabling for charities to take clear actions to improve – such as increasing transparency, accountability and good practice. A more nuanced conversation, with clarity around data should generate ideas for improvement.

We have partnered with nfpSynergy to form a comprehensive understanding of trust, and how it relates to charities. These reports included:

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If you have any queries please email info@acevo.org.uk or call 020 7014 4600.