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The Trust Factor

29 October 2014

We’ve all read the surveys that tell us that when it comes to trust – politicians, bankers and estate agents score pretty badly – that’s old news. But a new report out this week makes pretty bleak reading for many charities. Research commissioned by New Philanthropy Capital turns the spotlight on the voluntary sector and reveals that one in three members of the public have little trust in charities.

And size matters. The bigger charities score lower on trust than their smaller counterparts.

But surely this is just a communications issue? More effective communications can improve understanding and awareness of charities and improve levels of trust. To some extent that is true. Amongst some of those surveyed, familiarity does breed favourability as the findings show that there is a direct correlation between people’s perceived knowledge of charities and improved levels of trust and confidence. That’s good news for communications professionals who can show how building awareness and understanding of the charity can have a positive impact on reputation. But let’s not get too complacent. A similar proportion still scored charities low on trust despite feeling well informed about voluntary bodies in the UK.

What is this telling us? Quite simply, reputation management is about much more than effective communications – it’s also about behaviour and actions. The best organisations and businesses understand that reputation is inextricably tied to business strategy and should be discussed in the boardroom not just in the press office. Some of the feedback in this survey shows that the same issues that generate criticism of the private sector, such as executive remuneration and lack of collaboration with others, is now starting to dilute trust and undermine reputation of third sector players.

The best charities will welcome this report. They’ll already be acting on improving business practices, embracing transparency and accountability and engaging more effectively with their stakeholders. Others that resist change and disappoint stakeholder and public expectations will feel the consequences in terms of limited stakeholder support and declining reputation equity.

At Forster Communications we’ve been at the forefront of social change for two decades. We work with charities and businesses committed to delivering positive social change. We help them develop and promote their reputation by shaping business strategy, building trust and engaging with partners and stakeholders to articulate their social purpose.