As public trust and confidence in the charity sector appears to be falling, charities are increasingly focused on maintaining and strengthening their reputation. The recent Populus Report published by the Charity Commission indicates that the overall level of trust is 5.5 out of 10, lower than the score of 5.7 out of 10 in the 2016 survey.

The report looks at how trust and trustworthiness drive donor behaviour and reiterates the importance of these factors to the success of charities. Over 52% of respondents indicated that making a positive impact to the cause and greater levels of trust increased donations.

Key factors in establishing trust include:

  • transparency about charity spending
  • demonstrating work in accordance with its values and objects
  • efficiency of resources
  • being well-managed
  • demonstrating a positive difference
  • capability and skills within the organisation.

What can your charity do to build and maintain public trust?

Communicate clearly:

  • How well does your charity communicate with the public?
  • Is your charity clear about its purposes and is there sufficient beneficiary and supporter stories and involvement?
  • Does your communication strategy reflect changes to communication channels and are you listening to stakeholder and beneficiary feedback from social media and traditional channels?


  • How do you share information regarding charity spending and how is this presented? Could this be simplified or could more information be provided?

Regular governance reviews:

  • How frequently are your governance arrangements reviewed?
  • Is your charity focused on improving standards? Do your trustees provide effective strategic leadership and promote a culture in line with the charity’s objects?
  • Do your trustees understand their role and legal duties including the requirements of the charities governing document? Are your policies and processes up-to-date and regularly reviewed, particularly relating to GDPR and safeguarding?
  • Do the trustees demonstrate these values and behaviours?
  • Is decision-making based on informed and rigorous information? Are there affective risk management arrangements in place to provide assurance and ensure that reputational and legal risks can be appropriately managed and mitigated?
  • How does your board assess and evaluate its performance? Does it have arrangements in place to identify skills knowledge and experience in order to develop and recruit trustees with requisite knowledge to further for charities objects?

If your charity would like clear, practical advice regarding its governance arrangements please contact our specialist charity team who can provide you with advice and training tailored to meet your needs.

Laurie Trounce is a Partner and head of the Charities Team. If you need advice reviewing the issues raised in this article or require any further information please get in touch by telephone 01872 265100 or email