The stark message from SCVO’s latest trust figuresis that general trust in Scottish charities is down – from 82% in 2016 to 73% in 2018.
It is difficult to understand all the factors influencing trust, but one thing is clear – negative media stories continue to be a much stronger factor than negative personal experiences.
However, we can’t shoot the messenger – well run charities don’t make for good scandals and there wouldn’t be negative media stories if we hadn’t had the fundraising scandal in 2015, or indeed the current scandal engulfing Oxfam.
The Oxfam Chief Executive – in a very unhelpful and intemperate interview – made the point that people were ‘gunning’ for the charity.
I agree, but if you don’t give them the ammunition, they can’t shoot at you.
Meanwhile, the Oxfam scandal is engulfing the entire third sector. Public trust is suffering, and our reputation and the work we do is being severely tested.
At SCVO we know the vast majority of Scottish charities are well run. But trust is fragile. Bad practice should be weeded out wherever it exists, but what about all the charities that are run well and making doing great work every day to improve the lives of people across Scotland? Who is standing up for them?
The solution to the massive reputational problem we now face is not rocket science. It lies with anyone who has a role in running or working in a charity, whether as a trustee, senior management, volunteer or staff member.
It’s time to take stock, and charities should be asking themselves:
- Are we true to our mission and values?
- Do we have good governance in place to ensure we are well run?
- Are our policies lived out in practice
- Are we open, transparent and accountable?
- Do we know and tell people about the positive impact of our work?
Trust in the third sector is still high and despite all negative influences and the drop in trust, charities remain amongst the most trusted institutions in the UK, just behind doctors and police. But a 9 percentage point drop in trust in just 2 years is a wake-up call.
The question is, where do we go from here?
At SCVO we are launching an ‘I Love Charity’ campaign to inspire trust in charities, to promote better governance and encourage organisations to get better at telling the public about the amazing work they do.