Survey results: Trust and confidence in charities

Charities at the Department of Internal Affairs has released the results of a survey investigating the public’s trust and confidence in charitable organisations.

The survey was conducted online in March and April by independent research agency UMR Research. It was an ‘opt-in’ survey that received 2000 responses. The data has been weighted by age, gender, and region. It has a margin of error of 2.2%.

Trust and confidence in charities

The survey found that 44% of respondents had a high level of trust and confidence in charities, down by 11% since 2010, and 14% since 2008.

Publicity about charities’ fundraising and easier access to information about charities is likely to have influenced public perceptions about charities. Views may also have been influenced by the economic climate, and a shift in support to organisations working to assist recovery in Christchurch.

Personal experiences with charities a key driver of trust

Respondents’ personal experiences of charities were overwhelmingly positive.  Ninety-two per cent of the respondents who had received services from a charity in the previous twelve months agreed that they would trust the charity again in the future, 90% said they had been treated fairly by the charity, and 88% said they would support it in the future.

Donation levels

The number of people reporting they donated more than $250 in the 12 months leading up to the survey increased to 34%, up from 32% in 2010, and 26% in 2008.

Respondents said that what most influenced them to donate to a charity was that:  “They work towards an end cause that is important to me.”

NOTE: Data from the Charities Register shows that over the past three calendar years, donations and koha given to the 25,500 registered charities have risen and fallen again, from $868m in 2009, to $1.03b in 2010, then to $885m in 2011.

Involvement with charities

Survey respondents said they were most commonly involved with “Culture and recreation organisations such as arts, culture and sports clubs”, with 40% of respondents saying they were involved with this type of organisation, up from 32% in 2010, and 35% in 2008.

The general type of organisation to which respondents were most likely to donate has shifted during the last 12 months to those providing services and support to Christchurch (47%).  Support for every other type of organisation has declined in favour of these charities.

Street collections most favoured way of donating

The most common way of donating is still through street collections (51%), although this method also showed a decrease of 6% since the previous survey.

Awareness of the Charities Register as a source of info about charities

The survey showed a significant increase in public awareness of the former Charities Commission (up from 57% in 2008, to 80% in 2012), and that awareness of the Charities Registration Number had increased from 28% in 2008 to 41% in 2012.

Charities at DIA have also released the following suggestions for how charities might apply this research to their activities:

When UMR last ran the public trust and confidence survey (in 2010), we thought it threw up some interesting questions and issues about what motivates people’s trust and confidence in charities, and how that might translate into giving behaviour.  So, we asked another research agency to find out more.

Empathy Research found that the reasons behind people’s trust and confidence in charities tend to remain the same, regardless of whether they have a low, medium or high level of trust in the charitable sector overall.

Even if a person has a lower level of trust in the charitable sector overall, they may still trust individual charities. However, they don’t necessarily give to charities they do trust, and may in fact give to some charities they don’t particularly trust or have confidence in. Tricky!

Having trust and confidence in a charity is just one of the factors that influences giving (of both donations and time). Other factors, such as having been a recipient of a charity’s services, also influence trust and confidence.

In brief, some of the key “learnings” that charities may wish to apply to your own fundraising or donor relationships programme are that:

  1. It’s vitally important to show donors and supporters that you are using your funding wisely, and making a difference.  You can include “non-financial reporting” in your financial statements, filed with your Annual Return, to do this.  They will be published on the Charities Register as part of your Annual Return.  For more, see our information sheet, Telling your story through non-financial reporting.
  2. In particular, people want assurance from charities that:
    • There is no “frivolous” spending
    • There is no waste
    • A large proportion (ideally all) of the funds are applied to the cause
    • The charity is doing “the best thing” for the cause
    • It’s clear how funds are being spent
  3. People want to see and feel that:
    • There is a real need for the charity’s work/support – they can imagine needing the charity’s help
    • The results of the charity’s work are tangible, and clearly visible
    • The cause is personally relevant.
  4. People are mostlikely to be trusting and confident in charities that:
    • Are related to health or emergencies
    • Act locally
    • Seek donations for specific projects rather than for “generic” aid
    • Show tangible outcomes

What reduces people’s trust and confidence in charities?

  1. People are lesslikely to be trusting and confident in charities that:
    • Use aggressive marketing
    • Have aggressive collectors
    • Suggest a large donation
    • Suggest a long-term commitment
    • Pay their CEO a big salary
    • Spend too much on admin and management
    • Spend too much on advertising and collection.
  2. People are also lesslikely to feel trust and confidence if a charity’s employees or representatives appear “disconnected” from the cause – that is, if they are:
    • “Just doing another desk job”
    • Professional fundraisers
  3. Other factors that reducetrust and confidence are where people perceive that charities are:
    • Becoming more corporate, and acting like big business
    • Pushing an extreme or “fringe” position
    • Funding “self-serving” research.

Where people feel trusting and confident in charities, they are more likely to:

  • Give money
  • Give time
  • Increase their trust in the “sub-sector” the charity belongs to (for example, health)
  • Spread positive word of mouth about the charity

They are also likely to think more about the charity’s cause or the issue it addresses, and to feel a greater sense of community satisfaction and connection.

Download the Trust and Confidence in Charities full report (PDF, 1 MB)

Source: Charities at DIA