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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Only One-Fifth of Donors Report High Trust in Charities: Survey

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Sixty-four percent of philanthropically minded adults in a new survey rated the importance of trusting a charity before giving to it as essential (9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), but only 20.4% of respondents said they highly trust charities, the Better Business Bureau’s reported Friday.

The annual survey, which has conducted every December since 2017, was administered to some 2,100 adults across the U.S. and another 1,100 adults in Canada to explore how the public feels, thinks and intends to act around charity trust and generosity.

The new research showed that the portion of respondents who highly trust different charity types increased for 12 out of 13 categories between 2020 and 2021. Environmental organizations were the exception, dropping by 0.4%; only 16% of respondents expressed high trust.

“With growing concern about how eroding trust might harm publicly soliciting charities, our survey found reasons for hope,” H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive of BBB’s, said in a statement. “The survey found higher trust for most charity categories, and the highest openness to solicitation we have observed in five years.”

Report Highlights

Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents were open to solicitation. Seventeen percent said they wanted to be approached more by charities, and 21% said they might be willing to give more if approached.

This was the highest openness to solicitation expressed in surveys in the past five years, up by 5.2 points between December 2017 and December 2021.

The latest survey found that 71.8% of respondents open to solicitation prefer donating to a charity serving the needs of their ethnic community, compared with just 26.1% of respondents who do not want to be approached by charities.

When pollsters presented scenarios that might deter participants from donating, 57.7% focused on financial concerns. Thirty-three percent said they would be most discouraged if a charity spends a high portion of every dollar on fundraising and management. This was the sentiment of 50.6% of older respondents, but only 26% of Generation Z.

Twenty-five percent of respondents said they would be deterred from giving when they are not sure how the charity will use their donation, including 38% of Generation Z, compared with 15% of older donors.

Asked what most signals that a charity is trustworthy, respondents cited these in descending order of importance:

  • Accomplishments shared by the organization
  • Third-party evaluation by an independent organization
  • Name recognition
  • Financial ratios
  • Passion and sincerity in the appeal

Accomplishments shared by the organization was the most frequently chosen trust signal across generations. However, older ones were likelier to respond to third-party monitors, while younger generations responded to passion and sincerity and to appealing stories.


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