Public trust and confidence in charities is essential for the achievement of their missions. However, recent evidence suggests that trust in UK charities has been damaged, potentially affecting charities’ and the charity sector’s sustainability and effectiveness. This paper constructs accountability as an important means of developing, maintaining and restoring trust in charities. Through a series of interviews with charity managers, it investigates the public and private mechanisms used in discharging accountability to, and building trust with, charities’ main stakeholder groups. The paper identifies the use of a wide range of mechanisms, often highly tailored to particular stakeholders’ perceived information needs, which are seen as critical in this process. It is argued that the use and interplay of these can create a ‘virtuous circle’ of accountability and trust, where each reinforces the other. It is argued that where this is achieved, trust in individual charities, and the sector as a whole, can be enhanced.
Trust and Accountability in UK Charities: Exploring the Virtuous Circle