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Public trust in charities increases significantly but transparency is still vital

28 Sep 2020

The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has today published the results from its Scottish Charity and Public Surveys 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.

Read the summary here.

Read the full report here.

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.

OSCR Chief Executive Maureen Mallon said,

‘An improvement in public trust is recognition of the important work conducted by Scottish charities and third sector support organisations.

‘We would like to thank everyone who responded to the surveys. As regulator, it is encouraging to see from the results that the public and charities are positive about OSCR’s role and the work we do. We have gained vital feedback on areas where the sector can improve, and we will use this data to influence positive change with many different organisations.

‘The importance of trust should not be underestimated by charities. The public expects them to be open and accountable about their operations, finances and motivations. Charities are not just accountable to OSCR, but also to the public, beneficiaries, communities and funders. OSCR provides clear guidance on successful reporting on our website and we will continue to promote greater transparency to charities as part of our ongoing engagement with them.’

In a recent blog, OSCR’s Data and Research Manager reflects on the importance of the findings for charities and for OSCR. You can read the blog ‘Building on Trust’ here.

Join OSCR staff for a webinar from 12-1pm on 29 October to hear more about OSCR’s recent Charity and Public Survey 2020 findings. More information and how to book a place is available here.