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Revealed: what the public really thinks of charity chief executives


​The young have a better opinion of charity chiefs than older people

Public trust in charity chief executives has fallen, according to new polling.

Just 45% of those asked said charity leaders are likely to tell the truth – down three per cent from last year.

The research, in the form of face-to-face interviews with 1,020 people aged 15 and over throughout the UK, was carried out by Ipsos Mori in its Veracity Index 2019 Trust in Professions Survey.

Pollsters asked what the public thought of a range of professions.

There was a cleavage in attitudes towards voluntary sector CEOs based on age.

People under 45 were more likely to trust charity chief executives to tell the truth than their older counterparts.

Ipsos found that 58% of people under the age of 45 believed charity chief executives would tell the truth, while 58% aged 45 and over said the opposite.

The survey, which has been running since 1983, has only included charity chief executives since 2015.

In 2015, 47 per cent of people said they trusted charity leaders, which rose to a high of 50 in 2017.

Although there has been a slight dip in trust, based on whether people thought charity leaders tell the truth, the picture is stable.

The study found that charity chief executives were less trusted than doctors, who 90% of people said were likely to tell the truth, teachers (89%), the police (76%) and members of the clergy (65%).

However, they are more trusted than bankers (43%), estate agents (30%), journalists (26%) or Westminster government ministers (17%).

Nurses are the most trusted (95%) and the least trusted were politicians as a whole (14%).

Trust in charity chief executives was higher among Labour voters (54%) than among Tories (36%) and was higher among remain voters (51%) than leave voters (34%).

People with degrees were also more trusting of charity chief executives than those with no qualifications.

Kristiana Wrixon, head of policy at ACEVO, the representative body for chief executives in the English and Welsh charity sector, told Civil Society: “This poll is cause for reflection but not necessarily alarm. We know from our own research with nfpSynergy this year that when asked about trust in charities in general, people expressed lower levels of trust than when asked about individual charities one-by-one. We also found that the most trusted charities are ones that provide services, and the least trusted are those that challenge the status quo.

“Charity leaders should, and mostly do, act transparently, responsibly and in line with their charitable objectives. They should be confident that they are trusted by the community they serve and work alongside. Trust, especially in uncertain times, can be volatile and ACEVO will continue to champion the work of civil society CEOs to build trust in the role of charity in our society.”

Pat Armstrong, chief executive of Scottish charity leaders' group Acosvo said: “I would re-iterate Kristiana’s comment of reflection rather than alarm. The last two OSCR surveys showed that public trust in charities in general had stayed stable.

"In terms of trust in CEO’s, the point Kristina makes that there is a difference in whether the charity (and thus the CEO) is known the higher the trust, means that its easier to have less trust when it’s a general statement across the sector.

"That said, I do think we have a job to do to raise awareness of how well the sector is led, managed and regulated, how professional, passionate and committed the leaders in the sector are, and how important a role they play in helping their charities have a positive impact on people’s lives and causes across the country.

"At Acosvo we work with over 500 CEOs as our members. We offer peer support, good practice sharing and leadership development to sector leaders and see on a daily basis how important the job is to them, how important it is to them to lead well, and how much of themselves they put into what is often a complex and challenging role but equally a very rewarding role in term of seeing the benefits and impact the organisation’s work has on its beneficiaries.”



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Pat Stewart
11 months ago
Surely the answer to these questions are based on how the question is asked - it sounds subjective to me. No open questions asked. Surely the CEO of a charity is only one part of the charity message...Does this mean that 55% of the people asked do not believe that charities are being honest about what they do? More clarity is needed before these are seen part of the whole picture. And no I am not a charity leader...just someone who has worked in the sector for rather a long time and find that surveys such as this one are not particularly helpful