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The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) regularly commissions surveys on Scottish charities to give is further knowledge of charity life and public trust and confidence.

The latest survey took place in 2020 and you can find the results, together with the results of previous surveys, in the Scottish Charity Survey section below.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, OSCR commissioned a survey to find out the impact of COVID-19 on charities. You can find the results of this in the COVID-19 impact on charities survey section below.

On 05 May 2020, OSCR emailed the principal contacts of all Scottish charities to ask for their help with completing a short survey. The survey asked questions on the impact to the charity of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the subsequent lockdown measures. The research was conducted until 15 May 2020, with 4,827 responses providing insights from a large number and representative cross section of registered Scottish charities.

The results told us that:

  • charities have been active in countering the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation, with 95% having taken some type of action
  • cancelling or postponing planned work or events was the single most common impact of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown upon charities, with 78% affected in this way
  • over half of the charities (51%) had lost income from fundraising. Two in five (42%) had lost income from other sources such as trading
  • nearly a third (29%) of charities had seen a decrease in the number of volunteers with which they engaged
  • one in five (20%) reported a critical threat to their financial viability in the next 12 months
  • one in five (20%) Scottish charities predicted that they would be unable to do the work they were set up to do at some point in the next 12 months.

The survey also asked respondents to submit recommendations to OSCR. The most common recommendation asked us to continue with the current level of support (17%). Besides that, charities asked for more general support on funding, more flexibility with deadlines/payments and for OSCR to inform them on government guidelines.

These findings will be used to inform OSCR’s work, as well as to help local and national government, funders, public bodies and others in supporting the Scottish charity sector.

Detailed Survey Data

We are making the survey data tables available for further research and analysis. 

Data table and subgroup notes:

  • Charities were able to select more than one sector so there is some overlap between charities in individual sectors. This also applies to the net sector groups.
  • Charities were also able to select more than one income type so there is overlap between charities in these groups. This also applies to the net income type groups.
  • More detail can be found in the questionnaire.
  • Findings from groups with small numbers of respondents should be interpreted cautiously.
  • The BETA subgroup charts are working copies intended to help identify patterns or trends within groups. They are not comprehensive and do not show a complete set of results for every question. This document may be updated as further analysis is carried out. If making use of the findings shown in the charts it is always best to check the corresponding data table to ensure you are aware of the full picture. 

The detailed survey data is available below:

The BETA subgroup charts are available below. Please download and open with Excel. The charts have been formatted with Excel 2016. There may be compatibility issues with other versions.

We have also published a blog which reflects on the detailed survey data. You can read the blog here.

The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) regularly commissions surveys on Scottish charities to give us further knowledge of charity life and public trust and confidence.

Our latest survey results were published on the 28th September 2020.

The research was carried out on our behalf by Breaking Blue, an independent market research organisation and member of the Market Research Society. It presents views from 1,010 Scottish adults and 1,102 charity representatives as well as findings from four focus groups with the general public (two each in Aberdeen and Glasgow) and eleven in-depth telephone interviews with charities.

The charity survey asked questions to help identify the challenges faced by charities and examine the perception of OSCR amongst charities. The public survey measured trust in charities, attitudes towards charity regulation and explored the impact of regulation on trustworthiness.

Key findings include:

  • Public trust has increased to an average score of 7.02 out of 10 in 2020 from 6.14 out of 10 in 2018. Trust was strongest for charities working in Scotland (7.2 out of 10), charities working with volunteers only (7.18 out of 10) and charities working locally (7.09 out of 10).
  • 93% of Scottish adults have given money, time or goods to a charity in the last year.
  • The importance of a charity’s cause was the most common reason for choosing to support a charity (56% of those who donate), followed by trustworthiness (44% of those who donate).
  • Feedback from charities found that OSCR is highly trusted to keep a reliable register (96%) and to regulate the charity sector fairly (94%).
  • 58% of the public said knowing how much of a donation goes to the cause and 55% said seeing evidence of what the charity has achieved would make them feel a charity was trustworthy.

OSCR encourages charities to be transparent and accountable in their work, but only 1 in 7 charities (14%) said that ensuring the public have access to annual reports and accounts was mainly the responsibility of individual charities and 1 in 6 view being transparent and accountable as mainly a charity’s responsibility (16%). In both cases around two fifths (40%) view these responsibilities as OSCR’s (with a further 40% believing the responsibility is shared).  

The Scottish Charity Register, charity registration logo and social media all allow charities to be more visible and accessible to the public than before. Being open and accountable demonstrates trustworthiness. It is also a crucial aspect of charity governance and plays an important role when seeking funding. This research provides detailed information that will help OSCR work with charities to ensure the public are more informed and have a greater understanding of the sector and the work it does.

The fieldwork for the research was undertaken between February and March 2020, before the full extent of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures. When combined with our recent COVID-19 impact on charities survey, the results provide important evidence and insights on the challenges facing the sector and OSCR’s role in supporting a trusted sector that contributes to society and operates to the highest standards.

You can read the results from our previous surveys below: