Thursday, 26 June 2014

The public still trusts charities - but the Commission should pull its socks up

Today the Charity Commission published new research looking at the public’s trust in charities, carried out by Ipsos MORI. It’s more positive than this week’s similar polling from nfpSynergy  In both cases, despite the warning signs, I think it’s important to credit charity leaders, trustees and volunteers for maintaining such high, continued public trust.

The new research found once again that charities are very highly trusted by the general public - only doctors and the police are trusted more. 

It raised important questions over the importance of good financial management by charities - more people picked this out as important to their reputation. It also showed fewer people trust charities to work independently (62%, compared to 68% in 2010).

And perhaps more worryingly, the proportion who would be more confident in a charity providing a public service than another type of service provider fell from 25% in 2012 to 20% this year.

But let us remember that charities are working in the most difficult operating environment for many years, under pressure on all sides from funders, local and national government and from rising frontline demand. All things considered, I think it is surprising that the level of public trust is so resilient. We must not be complacent but it is encouraging all the same. I recall the findings of another Ipsos MORI survey from January this year which pointed not only to high public trust in our sector, but also to the fact that more people thought we ought to be campaigning to change public policy (32%) than thought we currently are doing so (24%). So in fact we should be expanding our advocacy role rather than merely defending it against those who disagree with what we say.

The survey poses tough questions, too, for the Charity Commission itself. They will have new powers and new energy at the top with the appointment of Paula Sussex as their Chief Executive. It will be her job to ensure that the Commission improves its performance, defends our sector’s integrity and avoids oppressive over-regulation. The Commission needs to pull its socks up and become the effective regulator and support that our sector needs - and the public demands. Let’s see what happens...

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