Public Trust in Charities

Public trust and confidence is a governance challenge that all charities face, whether large or small.

NCVO note: 

Because the charity sector depends on donations and support from individuals, businesses, local and national government, and exists to deliver charitable purposes for public benefit, it’s imperative they demonstrate their impact and show that they are acting with integrity.

The latest Charity Commission research shows that charities saw a significant fall in public trust in 2016-18. Concerningly, at one point they were less well trusted by the public than an ordinary person in the street. However, headline trust in charities has recovered since 2018, while many other institutions have seen falls in trust in the last couple of years. As a result, charities are now more trusted than most other institutions, more than the police, but less than doctors.

Other headline themes include:

  • Negative actions by a single charity can impact the public perception of charities generally. When one charity mismanages funds, acts unethically or is involved in a scandal, it can affect charities everywhere.
  • While trust in charities has improved since 2016, there is still a gap between different communities. The most affluent and diverse communities have the highest trust in charities, while the least affluent and diverse communities have the lowest trust.
  • As a regulator, the Charity Commission is responsible for demonstrating the impact of charities to the public, and ensuring charities are acting within the law.
  • Public trust in charities is complex and nuanced but it’s especially impacted by how responsibly funds are used, whether they act ethically and whether they can demonstrate impact.


  • Trustee boards must ensure that they understand and can identify conflicts of interest.
  • Trustee boards should familiarise themselves with their statutory duties, as set out in the Charity Commission’s 5-minute guides.

VIN runs training courses on Trustee Governance, the Charity Governance Code and Demonstrating Social Impact. If any organisation requires a bespoke session on these subjects contact in the first instance and we will be in touch.