Donations fall as scandal-hit charities lose public trust

Percentage of people giving money drops as number who believe sector is untrustworthy rises

Oxfam has been embroiled in a massive sex abuse scandal
(Image credit: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of Britons donating to charities has fallen for the third consecutive year, amid worrying signs a series of high-profile scandals have damaged trust in the sector among the public.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) estimates the proportion of the UK public who gave money direct to charity in 2018 dropped to 57%, compared with 60% the previous year and 61% in 2016.

This drop in numbers has come over a period during which the charity sector has been rocked by scandals.

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Over the same period the proportion of people who believe charities are trustworthy has dropped below 50% for the first time, with 21% of respondents believing they are explicitly untrustworthy.

The findings “will be unwelcome for charity leaders,” The Guardian says, “who have been seeking to move on from debate over trust and confidence sparked by the Kids Company affair, controversy over fundraising techniques, and last year’s revelations of sexual abuse and other safeguarding scandals at aid charities”.

“Charities have come under intense scrutiny since it emerged that Oxfam staff used prostitutes in during a relief mission in Haiti, sparking a scandal that widened to other aid organisations,” reports Reuters.

“If people lack trust, that means they worry that their hard-earned money is not being well spent when donated to charities,” said Susan Pinkney, CAF’s head of research. “This is a challenge that the entire charity sector needs to tackle head-on and find ways to inspire people to give and demonstrate to them that their money is making a difference.”

Yet instead of a growing mistrust, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the leading umbrella body for charities, has laid the drop in donators on changes to fundraising regulations brought in the wake of the scandals as well as GDPR data protection rules that took effect last May.

Significantly, says the Guardian, “the CAF survey found fewer people had been approached to make a donation in the street or on the doorstep last year, or received direct mail requests”.

Despite this, the London Evening Standard said “the UK remains one of the most generous countries in the world, consistently ranked in the top 10 of the foundation’s annual ‘World Giving Index’”.

In fact, although fewer people are donating, the total amount given to charity in 2018 remained largely the same as 2017 at £10.1 billion.

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