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The world relies on charity work—it just doesn’t totally trust who’s doing it

Barely half the world has confidence in the nonprofits working in their country.

The world relies on charity work—it just doesn’t totally trust who’s doing it
[Image: StudioM1/iStock]

Whether it’s delivering vaccines, providing disaster relief, or creating educational opportunities in communities that need them the most, the role of a charity is traditionally to step up and help people when the government can’t. But that doesn’t mean people totally trust the groups doing it.

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In fact, only 52% of the global population has confidence in the charities operating within their country’s borders. For nonprofits seeking to deliver aid, that should point to a new need for long-term success: gaining community buy-in where they’re working.

The findings come from Gallup and the Wellcome Trust, which surveyed more than 144,000 people across 140 countries as part of a new poll on public attitudes toward science and health. Turns out, in many places, people trust the interventions more than people delivering them. Worldwide, 79% of people think vaccines are safe and 84% agree that they’re effective. (Not great numbers considering both are definitely true—but still better than charities fare.)

[Image: StudioM1/iStock]

This trend echoes similar survey data from another group. In 2015, the Edelman Trust Barometer noted that worldwide trust in NGOs had dropped to 63%. In the nearly half decade since then, it’s slumped further, to 56%, although that’s rebounded just a bit from last year. Gallup doesn’t have any historically comparative data, as this is the first year they’ve done the report.

The countries with the most confidence in nonprofit operations were Malta, Rwanda, and Iceland and Mauritius (the latter two tied for third). On average, between 75% and 79% of those surveyed felt good about group efforts there. Those places with the least people reporting confidence were Colombia, Greece, and then Bulgaria. Less than 30% of their citizens believed operations were doing effective work. The United States ranked slightly higher than average, with 60% of Americans still believing in charities.

[Image: StudioM1/iStock]

One thing that’s not at play is the relative wealth of these nations. When grouped by national income, most countries in both low and high brackets reported confidence levels that echoed the global average. That means there must be another factor involved. For organizations looking to remain welcome where they’re working, it may be time to figure out exactly what they’re not doing right to gain more trust.

“In many countries, charitable organizations and NGOs play a key role in society by providing goods, services, or information,” the researchers write in a report summary. “The trust that people have in these organizations can either enhance or inhibit the organizations’ effectiveness and their ability to generate public goods. As such, charities and NGOs need to keep this trust in mind as it directly affects the spheres and activities they can undertake within societies.”

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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