Regulator's narrative on public trust is ‘unnecessarily negative’, says ACEVO chief

The chief executive of ACEVO, Vicky Browning, has criticised the Charity Commission as being “unnecessarily negative” in its narrative surrounding its recent report on trust.

Published yesterday, Trust in Charities 2018 revealed trust in charities has 'plateaued' to levels unseen since 2005 and that transparency is “not enough” to rebuild the public’s trust in the third sector.

The report found the average level of trust in charities has plummeted to 5.5 out of 10, which is lower than levels of 5.7 out of 10 found when the exercise was last conducted two years ago. This is also the lowest figure seen since the regulator first started recording levels of trust in the public back in 2005.

But in response to the findings, ACEVO’s Browning expressed concerns about the framing of the statistics, warning it appears “unnecessarily negative”.

“The Charity Commission survey provides useful benchmarking statistics but I'm concerned that the framing of the statistics perpetuates an unnecessarily negative narrative,” she said.

"We know that there is still work to be done across the sector to improve practices in a number of areas. But there is still a huge amount of positive and impactful activity happening day in, day out, which underpins our society, and much of which the public isn't thinking of when asked about levels of trust in charities.”

Browning explained how the majority of respondents, when asked to define a charity, did not think of local charities, cultural institutions or educational organisations, meaning many were responding to questions with “a very small proportion of the sector in mind”.

“This is not to encourage complacency: charity leaders must have an open mind, continuously learn and be open to improvements that help them better achieve their mission. I support the Charity Commission’s assertion that we should be focusing on impact, stewardship and values,” she added.

"However trust is not a static concept, and levels of trust vary across different communities and demographics. I encourage charity leaders to talk about trust with their beneficiaries, donors, volunteers and staff and to take action based on those insights.”

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