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Trust in Canadian Charities, Fundraising Remains Strong

(Nov. 6, 2006) Nearly four out of five Canadians trust charities, and leaders of charities are some of the most trusted people in the country, according to the Muttart Foundation’s survey of public attitudes about the charitable sector.

Talking About Charities 2006 is the third such survey to poll Canadians about their views on issues including trust, fundraising and information provided by charities. Previous surveys were published in 2000 and 2004.

Eighty percent of Canadians trust charities, with 27 percent reporting they trust them a lot. The level of trust has remained about the same since the 2000 survey, when overall trust was 77 percent.

Hospitals were the most likely type of charity to be trusted a lot or some (89 percent), followed by children/children’s activities (85 percent), health prevention/research (84 percent) and education (77 percent).

Trust in leaders of charities was equally high, with 77 percent of respondents saying they trust leaders of these organizations, and 22 percent who report trusting them a lot. Only nurses and medical doctors are trusted more by Canadians than leaders of charities.

Opposition to Commission-Based Fundraising

A strong majority of Canadians (62 percent) object to charities hiring commission-based fundraisers and feel this practice is unacceptable. In addition, 87 percent think that more attention should be focused on the amount of money charities spend on hiring professionals to conduct their fundraising.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73 percent) believe commission-based fundraisers should be required to indicate to donors that they are receiving a percentage of contributions raised, while 21 percent say they should disclose such information when asked.

More important, Canadians are split on whether or not there should be legal limits on how much money can be spent on fundraising. Just more than half of respondents (53 percent) believe there should be a limit, while 47 percent feel charities should be able to decide for themselves.

Canadians are strongly supportive of charities running businesses to raise funds (85 percent), although 72 percent are concerned that money could be lost on the businesses instead of helping people and 52 percent said running businesses takes too much time away from charities’ missions.

Information about Charities

More than nine in 10 Canadians place strong emphasis on being able to obtain information about charities, their programs, how they spend money and the impact of their work. However, just half of respondents (51 percent) think charities do an excellent or good job of providing information about their programs and services, the impact of their work (38 percent), how they use donations (31 percent) and fundraising costs (27 percent).

Nearly half (48 percent) would like to see more information about charities, even if it means charities would spend more money on communications.

“Many charities say that much of this information is already available,” said Bob Wyatt, executive director of The Muttart Foundation, in a press release about the survey. “But clearly, Canadians don’t think it is. It’s critical that we respond to these concerns. The charitable sector must find more effective ways to deliver their message to its key stakeholders—the public it serves, donors and government.”

Most Canadians (58 percent) research a charity on its website, followed by examining a regulator’s website (50 percent), calling the charity and asking for information (46 percent) and examining a charity’s financial statement (44 percent). However, only 31 percent of respondents are aware that there are organizations that regulate charities, and of those, only 22 percent are able to name an organization (Revenue Canada).

About the Survey

Talking About Charities 2006 reports on the results of 20-minute interviews carried out between May and July with 3,864 Canadians. A study this size provides a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent, 19 times out of 20. It is the third in a series of polls carried out by The Muttart Foundation to inform charities and policymakers about the views of Canadians on charities and issues affecting charities.

Copies of the full Talking About Charities 2006 report including provincial and demographic breakdowns are available on The Muttart Foundation’s website.

The Muttart Foundation was founded in 1953 by Gladys and Merrill Muttart. It provides grants to Canadian charities and carries out research activities about, and of interest to, the charitable sector. AFP honored The Muttart Foundation in 2001 with its Award for Outstanding Foundation.

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