Trust in charities is critical in terms of the health of the sector, and also in relation to the establishment and maintenance of social cohesiveness. Moreover, lack of trust can not only damage the charity sector (having negative impacts on public perceptions and donor giving), but can also undermine attempts at building social capital. Yet, how trust is defined, the various forms that it takes and how it is established (or re-established, if lost) is unclear. This paper explores the various conceptions of what trust is, applies them to charities and examines trust in relation to the sustainability of the sector. A key finding is that trust has many dimensions and charities (and the sector as a whole) need to work on a range of fronts on an ongoing basis to protect and build perceptions of trustworthiness (‘many stones can form an arch’). As a consequence, the paper presents an outline research agenda (in the form of four key questions) that encourages future researchers to enhance understanding of the important interplay between trust and charities more fully. This focuses on the relationship between charities and beneficiaries, how trust-building activities vary with charity size/area of activity, the potential role of communicating service delivery, and what ‘good regulation’ might look like.
- charities, trust, charity research agenda