Corporate partnership broker, Cavill + Co, has teamed up with Di Marzio Research to identify Australia’s most trusted charity. Not only do the results show an overwhelming leader – they point to a great deal of missed opportunity. Rochelle Nolan reports.

Trust is a huge factor in determining the value of a charity’s brand. It impacts on whether potential donors will give, whether people leave a bequest or volunteer. In the context of corporate partnering, companies want to partner with trusted charities to build trust in their own brands.

These are just some of the reasons Cavill + Co worked with Di Marzio Research to identify the most trusted charity as voted by the Australian public. The Salvation Army came in first, with 25% of respondents naming the faith-based welfare agency as their most trusted charity. The Australian Red Cross (13%) came in second, and Cancer Council (6%) was third. But 17% of respondents reported that they either did not trust a charity, did not know who to trust, weren’t sure or had no answer.

Australia’s most trusted charities The Salvation Army – 25% Australian Red Cross – 13% Cancer Council – 6% St Vincent de Paul Society – 5% RSPCA – 4% World Vision – 3% Guide Dogs – 2% Royal Children’s Hospital – 2% Tie including Heart Foundation, Oxfam, The Starlight Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Surf Life Saving – 1%

None, don’t trust any – 10%
Don’t know/not sure/no answer – 7%

Community based charities scored 2% – groups such as Rotary and Lions. Churches also scored 2%, but as these are considered community groups rather than charities and were grouped together, they have not been included in the top 8. The Salvation Army is a church, but unlike other churches, which set up separate charities, The Salvation Army is both church and charity in one.

Capitalise on opportunity

Cavill says even more than the low numbers for some individual charities, the most concerning aspect of the research is the percentage of people who did not trust any charity (10%) or could not name a charity they trusted (7%). “If added to the list, these two results would be third and fourth on the top 8 list,” says Cavill. “This is quite shocking, especially given this was an online survey, so respondents had time to think about their answers.”

Cavill says this statistic represents close to 4 million Australians who currently don’t donate to charity – because if they did, they would be able to name those they trusted enough to donate to. For those who responded they couldn’t think of a charity they trust, Cavill says the nonprofit sector could see this as an opportunity.

“The average donation per annum is around $440 (Smart Company, 2009); so this suggests a potential of $694 million untapped donations each year. All these people may not have the means to donate, but even a small part of $694 million could transform a charity.”

Cavill says it is surprising that 10% of people said they don’t trust any charity at all, and suggests charities need to be more rigourous in communicating how public funds are spent, and in demonstrating the tangible outcomes of their work. “The fundraising sector as a whole needs to be mindful that trust has to be earned, and is not a given. If the sector can even transform some of the cynical 2.2 million people there is a share in $991 million per annum to be had.”

Creating a culture of trust

How should nonprofits start to transform someone from cynical to supporter? Cavill suggests starting on the inside, by fostering a transparent, trusting environment. “An environment of trust can only be built when leaders take the first steps to set the example. Once you have addressed internal trust, you can set the stage for building trust externally.”

Cavill also recommends reviewing communication with donors, media and the community and assessing how often solid, tangible outcomes and ROI are demonstrated. “Does all your communication, marketing and fundraising exhibit integrity and consistency? It’s true some people will never be won over, but with nearly a billion dollars at stake, it’s worth trying to earn the trust of at least some of them!”

To view the research, visit


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