Public Trust and Confidence in Charities

by | May 7, 2024 | Governance

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Trust is not a given. It’s something that must be earned. And this takes time, transparency, and staying true to your values.

For charities, building up trust is paramount to success.

However, public trust in charities is complex, and continuing news headlines linked to Trustees not fulfilling their roles and responsibilities, poor governance, and misuse of funds haven’t helped public perception.

The Charity Commission holds all charities to a high standard and helps to regulate the industry proactively. However, the actions and behaviours of Trustees, volunteers, and employees will still affect perception.

So, how can we build trust and confidence, and once you have it, how do you keep it?

Current state of play

With ongoing economic uncertainty, the war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, charity governance (or in some cases, lack of it), and so much more going on around the world, playing heavily on people’s minds, it comes as no surprise that people feel less secure and have less trust in the everyday things around them.

For some charities, however, this has been an opportunity to rebuild relations, work in local communities, and demonstrate a clear impact on how the charity is helping to alleviate some of these stresses.

All of this hard work has not gone unnoticed as we see recent reports highlighting that public trust in charities has increased and the sector is recovering (albeit slowly) from where it was half a decade ago, when in 2015, public trust in charities was at an all-time low.

This growing confidence and trust are due to smaller charities’ hard work and dedication. Those that are volunteer-led and have a more local feel about them, making them more readily understood. They work in their communities and connect with people, making it easier for people to identify and clearly see the link between donation and impact.

Of course, there is still a long way to go for charities to fully improve their confidence and trust index scores, but trust us, people want to support charities to succeed; we just have to help them on their way.

How can you build trust and confidence?

For many charity managers, when they’re asked this question, it often means working harder to actively show you’re working with the right intentions.

However, trustees have a significant role to play, too.

In fact, as part of their role and responsibility within the charity, building confidence and trust can come through many means. For example, to build trust, trustees should:

Manage funds appropriately—People want and need to see that Trustees and charity managers are using funds appropriately, i.e., to support the charity’s purpose. This means using funds for charitable activities that make the impact you promised to make, which is consistent and in the spirit of the charity.

Uphold the charity’s reputation—people need to see the value your charity offers; this means heightened visibility in all the right ways. Volunteers, employees, and trustees should all be trained, fully supported, and up to date with charity protocol. Everyone should know their specific roles and responsibilities within the charity, understanding that they represent the charity, so their actions and behaviours must reflect positively. 

Avoid unnecessary risk—trustees should focus on their core purpose, which means being cautious with charity funds but not just sitting on a pot of money and doing nothing. Instead, they should spend on the core purpose and put donations to good effect.

Be clear in communications—being open, honest, and fully transparent is vital when you’re a charity. People need to know exactly where funds and donations are being spent, and you’re recording and reporting information, with all statements, accounts, etc., being fully transparent. It’s about showing your impact and not hiding information from the public that may look suspect or like you have something to hide.

Build an emotional connection – by simply being you! People connect with people, and this is where smaller charities are winning in building trust and confidence because they can connect with people, share their values, show the positive impact they have within their local communities, and so much more. By being true to your charity, transparent in communications, and using funds appropriately and being able to show this, you can demonstrate an authentic connection that inspires trust much easier.

To find out more about the specific roles, responsibilities, and legal duties of Trustees, check out our latest blog post here.

Building Public Trust and Confidence

Charities of all shapes and sizes have big roles to fulfil and high expectations to continually meet – it’s almost like having a never-ending pair of big shoes to fill.

Having public trust and confidence in your charity is what will help you succeed, and charity trustees can impact this index score significantly.

Look to support your trustees in demonstrating full transparency and accountability, and use your communication methods to show your positive impact on your local community.

For help providing full transparency in all of your accounting, including end-of-year and impact reports, speak to a member of the Beyond Profit team today. We’re always happy to help and only a phone call away.

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