Report: Trust In British Charities Up, But Donors Wary

March 6, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Despite an uptick in the public trust of charities in the United Kingdom (UK), a new report by the New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) warns organizations not to take this newfound positivity for granted.

Results publishing in “Mind the Gap: What the Public Thinks About Charities,” found that 32 percent of the British public said their views toward charities have gotten more positive during the past three years, compared to 23 percent that had more negative views. Some 42 percent said their views haven’t changed one way or the other.

Based on a January 2014 polling of 1,035 adults in Great Britain conducted on behalf of London-based NPC by Ipsos MORI, a UK research group, the intention of the “Mind the Gap” report was to find out whether the barrage of negative criticism of charities by British politicians and the media – which included accusations of lobbying and excessive levels of CEO pay – had adversely affected the public’s view of the opinion.

While the answer to that question appears to be “no,” NPC’s research did find that the public has concerns regarding the way charities conduct business. Specifically, respondents outlined their top five issues with organizations:

  • Too much money spent on executive salaries (42 percent);
  • Lack of transparency about how money is spent (36 percent);
  • Too much money spent abroad (29 percent);
  • Pressure being placed on people to donate (29 percent); and,
  • Too much money spent on running costs.

Three-fifths of respondents (58 percent) indicated that nonprofit CEOs should earn less than a member of parliament (MP), with 16 percent of those individuals saying that CEOs should not be paid at all. To put this data in context, charity CEO pay range from £45,401 in Scotland to £70,000 in London. Meanwhile, a senior civil servant’s median salary is £77,000 while an MP earns £65,737.

NPC’s research also revealed an important gap between what the public thinks charities should be doing compared to what they think they actually do. More than half thought that charities should be helping communities but just 35% think they spend their time doing this.

According to NPC Chief Executive Dan Corry, this disparity could be due to a lack of understanding of what charities actually do. To address this, he said that organizations need to do a better job of explaining to their supporters their role and why certain decisions are made.

“For example, charity boards should be more vocal about the principles on which they have based a CEO’s pay, a perspective that was largely missing from the recent debate. Indeed all of those who work for charities in the UK have a role to play in building the reputation of the sector and countering misperceptions,” said Corry.

Corry also said that the sector needs to come up with a joint strategy to talk to the public about its changing role and to respond more comprehensively to criticism.

“Not all charities are perfect and the sector must be open about this, but many of the comments made about the sector are unfair and misleading,” he explained. “If the sector can work together, it will be in a stronger position to withstand any erosion of trust it might yet suffer should the attacks by the press and MPs continue.

You can download the full report by visiting www.thinknpc.org/events/state-of-the-sector-2014-mind-the-gap