Public trust in charities has fallen to its lowest level for eight years, according to new figures.
Research by the consultancy nfpSynergy, published today, found that the proportion of people who said they trusted charities “quite a lot” or “a great deal” was 53 per cent, a fall of three percentage points on the figure from 2014 and 13 percentage points down on the 2013 figure.
The figure is the worst since 2007, when it was 42 per cent.
The survey of a representative sample of 1,000 UK adults, which was carried out in April – before the coverage of the Olive Cooke case and the subsequent national newspaper focus on charity fundraising – asked people to rate how much trust they had in 24 organisations and institutions, including the police, the Royal Mail, supermarkets and the BBC.
The armed forces came out as the institution with the highest level of trust, with 77 per cent of respondents saying they trusted them “quite a lot” or “a great deal”, followed by the NHS on 70 per cent and schools on 62 per cent.
Charities were in eighth place, immediately below scouts and guides and just above the royal family.
Political parties had the lowest level of trust, with just 11 per cent of people saying they trusted them “quite a lot” or “a great deal”.
Twelve per cent of people said they had “very little” trust in charities and 29 per cent had “not much” trust in them. The remainder said they were not sure.
The survey found that 22 per cent of people trusted the Fundraising Standards Board a great deal or quite a lot – down six percentage points on last year – and 39 per cent said they trusted it very little or not much. Thirty per cent of respondents had not heard of it.
Trust in charities varied across the UK. NfpSynergy said that the figure in England and Wales for people who trusted charities a quite a lot or a great deal was 52 per cent, compared with 62 per cent in Scotland and 69 in Northern Ireland.
Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said the figures were “sobering for all those who work in the sector”.
He said the research emphasised that the sector could take nothing for granted about people’s trust in charities.
“We have to listen to what the public and donors tell us what annoys or concerns them about charities, which will probably reduce their levels of trust,” he said. “We can’t just tell the public how modern charities are; we also have to listen to how they would like them to be.”
NfpSynergy said it would carry out an additional piece of research in the autumn to try to gauge the affects of the recent negative media coverage on trust in charities.