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Is Lack of Trust in Charities Causing a Downward Trend in Donations?

The charity sector seem to be facing a rather hefty challenge in the wake of several charity-based scandals in the news, with research suggesting that the percentage of people pledging directly to charities has fallen to 57.

The fall in donations seems to be following a downward trend, which is worrying when coupled with the fact that trust in charities also seems to be falling.

Since 2016, direct charitable giving has fallen from 61%, to 60% to 57% last year, year on year. The number of people giving money or sponsoring someone has also fallen, from 69% in 2016 down to 67% and then 65% in 2018.

The estimated figures are from online surveys produced by CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) who said that this downward trend happened to also be at a time that the charity sector was rocked by multiple scandals.

48% of the population have trust in charities, but 21% deem them explicitly untrustworthy – a figure which has risen during this time period. Traditionally, the most regular supporters of charities tend to be those aged over 65, however slightly less of this group agreed that charities were trustworthy (46%) and slightly more disagreed (23%).

It’s pretty obvious that people will think twice about donating to a charity if they feel like they don’t know how well their money is being spent, or what their money is actually going towards.

It would make sense that in order to combat this, the charity sector as a whole need to inspire people to give again, and show them how much difference their hard earned cash is really making to those in need.

Those in positions of leadership within the charitable sector are keen to move on from this debate over trust, and put all the scandals and controversy behind them.

The Kids Company debacle, safeguarding scandals and revelations of sexual abuse at aid charities rocked the public’s trust and confidence in charity work and it’s these issues that the sector need to face head-on and overcome.

An opposing view from NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) for this downward trend in direct donations states the issue is less about trust and more to do with deliberate changes to fundraising last year as well as new data protection rules through the introduction of GDPR last May.

Chief Exec of NCVO, Sir Stuart Etherington, reflected that although fewer people made donations, those that did donate gave larger sums of money. This is supported by CAF survey findings that despite the drop in donaters, the overall amount raised from direct donations remained at a steady £10.1 billion.

Rather than focusing on the issue of trust, what we could instead look at is the differences that were made in fundraising strategies. Rather than trying to recruit new donors by approaching them in the street, through direct mail or visiting them at their donor, efforts were instead focused on nurturing the relationships they already had with current donors and retaining their support.

This seems to be a positive change in fundraising strategy and could be seen as one of the influences of supporters choosing to give more money.

Whilst it is speculated in the above reports that trust is resulting in less people choosing to donate, the reported rate of volunteering for charities last year remained stable. 16% said they had done so in the last 12 months, and in this day and age, time is as precious as money. Would you give your time more freely than money, to a charity you didn’t trust? Possibly not.

So it’s not all doom and gloom. Perhaps the figures do estimate a bit of a downward spiral, but there does also seem to be potential to adjust marketing strategies accordingly in order to keep donations coming in.