Donors’ Reliance On Trust Declines Again

The importance placed on trust before giving has eroded during each of the past three years, with participants who place “high importance” on trust dropping from 73 percent to 63.6 percent. Relying on trust metrics declined during a period when giving increased, including the first half of 2020. 

Those are some of the findings from The Give.org Donor Trust Report 2020: The Pandemic and a Three-Year Retrospective, released today by the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Give.org. The 61-page report includes surveys conducted at the end of August with more than 1,000 adults and in December 2019 with more than 2,100 adults.

The importance of financial ratios as a signal of trust has declined steadily, from 35 percent in December 2017 to 18.6 percent in August 2020. Meanwhile, third-party evaluations (36 percent) and name recognition (34 percent) have become relatively more significant than accomplishments shared by the organization (30 percent) or financial ratios (19 percent).

“Charity trust is important because it leads to engagement and giving,” H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB’s Give.org, said in a press release announcing the results. “Our research shows that individuals who attribute low importance to trust are less likely to donate,” he said.

Some donors may be influenced by a broader unease about the trustworthiness of institutions generally, however, there may be other shifting giving attitudes at play, Taylor said. “Our findings show that younger generations attribute less importance to trust before giving,” he added.

Part of the trust shift in 2020 can be attributed to changing attitudes among Black and Hispanic respondents. The portion of Blacks who consider trust before giving to be highly important declined from 57 percent to 50 percent. During 2020, Blacks and Hispanics became less likely to say assessing charity trust is “easy,” declining from 24 percent to 15 percent, and from 26 percent to 10 percent, respectively.

Individuals who place “high importance” on trust were more likely to donate (75.2 percent) than individuals who place “low importance on trust” (65.2 percent). Similarly, 53.2 percent of donors who place high importance on trust donated more than $200 in 2019, as compared to 39 percent of their counterparts.

Impulse to support charities has decreased in 2020. In March, 30.8 percent said they intended to donate more this year than in previous years. By August, that dropped to 24.4 percent.

For a free copy of the report, go to Give.org/DonorTrust