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Religious charities ‘least trusted’ in the sector

29 March 2018

Only eight per cent of respondents said that they trusted religious charities ‘a great deal’


Volunteers collect donations for the Breast Cancer Care charity, in 2016

Volunteers collect donations for the Breast Cancer Care charity, in 2016

RELIGIOUS charities enjoy the least trust in the sector, a survey suggests. Just eight per cent of respondents trust them “a great deal”.

The report also suggests that trust in the entire charitable sector has fallen in recent months, but not by as much as might have been expected in the wake of revelations about sexual abuse in international development (News, 16 February).

NfpSynergy’s survey of 1000 people, carried out last month, found that 40 per cent would not trust religious charities and that 24 per cent would trust them “up to a point”. Overseas aid and development charities secured similar numbers, with just ten per cent trusting them a great deal. The highest levels of trust were enjoyed by hospices (40 per cent a great deal), cancer charities (39 per cent), and rescue services (37 per cent).

More in-depth research of the faith sector, carried out by nfpsynergy in November, also based on a poll of 1000 people, found that 29 per cent were very or quite likely to support a religious- or faith-based charity, if it was a cause that they believed in. Younger respondents (aged 16-34) and non-white British ones, were more likely to fall into this category.

This report suggests that about a quarter of the public feel “warm” towards religious charities (about half of this group do not define as religious themselves). About 42 per cent have a “lukewarm” attitude, and about 34 per cent are “cold”.

The factor most likely to be regarded as “very important” by “warm” respondents, when considering supporting a religious charity, was that the charity helped anyone, regardless of their faith, followed by its being effective in working for its cause.

When asked about their reluctance to support a religious charity, the “cold” group was most likely to respond that they did not believe in organised religion. About 31 per cent said that they would be concerned that the charity would promote its religion to those receiving its services, and about 22 per cent said that they would be concerned that it might discriminate against people based on sexual orientation.

The report suggests that charities may wish to consider “challenging or refuting” such perceptions. Last year, a report by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), suggested that faith-based charities should clarify their po­­sition on proselytism, despite the fact that there is “little evidence” to justify fears (News, 6 January 2017).

The founder of nfpsynergy, Joe Saxton, said on Monday that charities within the religious sector were perceived very differently. “Interestingly, some organisations like [the] Salvation Army — clearly they are a church, but they have developed a non-threatening religiosity which people quite like; whereas a number of other ones do not appear to have developed an outward-facing persona which says ‘you many be religious but I trust you to do great work’.”

When asked to name a religious charity, about 65 per cent of the November respondents were unable to, although the report notes that this can be as high as 80 per cent for some health-related causes. Christian Aid was the most likely to be named, followed by the Salvation Army.

nfpsynergy’s latest report found that trust in charities overall had fallen by six per cent, from 60 per cent in November, putting it very close to the level reached in August. This was a smaller decrease than might have been expected, the report suggested, but could be due to the fact that overseas charities were already “trusted less, and were seen to need less money — probably as a result of negative media coverage, and potentially the hostility towards the 0.7 per cent of national income spent on foreign aid in recent years.”

It concludes: “The Oxfam scandal has reinforced the negative views of many about overseas charities, and left the rest of the charity sector relatively unscathed.”

The report ranks trust in 24 institutions, with the Church trusted by 34 per cent, placing it 17th, behind banks, supermarkets, and the police, but above the Government, newspaper, and multinational companies. The NHS tops the poll (76 per cent), and political parties rank lowest (11 per cent).

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