Adam Shaw finds that more people are relying on charities even as trust decreases
Only 50 per cent of people believe that charities are trustworthy, according to the latest UK Giving Report released by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).
Furthermore, of those who did consider charitable organisations to be trustworthy, only one in ten said they strongly agreed with such a statement. Kim Roberts, Senior Campaigns Officer at CAF, said this represents a “growing cynicism among society”.
She added that it could have come about due to negative and poor behaviour from some charities as well as a “difficult media and public climate”.
“Trust is a huge issue for charities; it is a commodity that we value and one that we require if we are to encourage people to give us their money and faith,” she said. “It’s been under pressure for some time and we need to be better at calling out and bearing responsibility for some of the things that have led to a lack of trust.”
However, CAF believes there are positives to be taken from the results. For example, charities are still considered to be more trustworthy than other organisations. They are seen as the most likely organisations to provide effective support to those who need it, ahead of the Government and local businesses.
Ms Roberts said that the sector could take advantage of such sentiments, as well as the fact that the utilisation of charitable services is on the rise.
“Trust is going down but we know more people are using us; our services are in greater demand than ever before,” she said. “If we behave ethically, if we behave responsibly, if we make them feel valued then trust is likely to rise.”
In spite of the scepticism shown towards charities, the amount of money donated during 2016 remains consistent with previous years. It floats around the £10 billion mark (£9.7 billion), while almost 90 per cent of people said they participated in at least one social or charitable action over the previous year – an increase of ten per cent.
Older people were more likely to donate money while younger people were more inclined to volunteer or take part in social engagement.
The research undertaken by CAF also shows that there were monthly trends when it came to people’s relationship with charities. Trust and donations were at their highest during November, when a number of national charity campaigns take place. Levels of trust dropped in December, perhaps due to “a prominent ruling about charities by the Information Commissioner, and a prolonged negative media narrative towards international development spending”.
However, donation levels in the final month of the year were higher-than-average which CAF attributes to the prominence of various Christmas appeals, #givingtuesday and the DEC Yemen appeal. Other factors which affected the research were the social and political events of 2016 which, while not necessarily impacting on the level of giving, probably enhanced social engagement and revealed donation trends.
Dr John Low, CAF Chief Executive, said: “Last year was a tumultuous one. The political shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump, the historic scale of the refugee crisis and the steady flow of upsetting and unsettling stories which dominated the headlines made 2016 an eventful 12 months.
“While huge change was taking place around us, some things remained consistent. One of those was the reliable and enduring generosity of people in the UK and their support of good causes.
“The EU referendum has already brought about a lot of change. The consequences of this are likely to become increasingly apparent over the months and years ahead, but so far it does not appear to have had any impact on charitable giving from the public.”
In 2016, 56 per cent of people reported signing a petition, with the “in the past four weeks” figure highest in July – the month after the EU referendum. Most of those who signed petitions were younger people, with fulltime students the most common group. CAF said that where Brexit could impact on charities is through the social changes which could arise.
“While there might not be any ‘Brexit-effect’ on donations, the implications for charities in the UK are considerable,” Dr Low said. “People feel the country and their communities are now more divided and, perhaps as a result, there has been a resurgent appetite to get involved in social and political issues.”
Ms Roberts added that Brexit is “far greater than an economic event” and had “shaken culture to its very core”.
“It brings about real questions of identity, of your place in society and how we interact with other people, no matter how you vote. That’s where it might have an impact on charities.”