Do People Trust Charities? Study by BBB’s Uncovers Pitfalls

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calendar icon Jul 17, 2020

Public Misconceptions Make Donors Vulnerable and Can Lead to Faulty Giving Decisions

Arlington, VA (October, 25, 2018) – Most people say trust is important before donating to charity, but fewer than one in five adult Americans say they “highly trust” charities, according to new research from BBB’s The group today released the Donor Trust Report: An In-depth Look into the State of Trust in the Charitable Sector. The report, a survey of 2,100 adults in the United States, explores donor beliefs, feelings, and behavioral intentions related to charity trust and giving.

While the majority of respondents (73 percent) say it is very important to trust a charity before giving, only a small portion of respondents (19 percent) say they highly trust charities and an even smaller portion (10 percent) are optimistic about the sector becoming more trustworthy over time. The research was first reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

For a free copy of the report, go to

“We rely on charities to solve some of society’s most challenging problems and it is startling to learn only a small percentage of Americans highly trust charities,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of BBB’s, “This report shows the need to strengthen public trust in the charitable sector, and reminds us that the ability of charitable organizations to thrive in the future is closely tied to their ability to understand how rising – and more diverse – generations think about trust, engagement and generosity.”

According to the report, minorities and younger generations are particularly vulnerable because they are more likely to rely heavily on engaging stories and perceived sincerity and passion in a charity’s appeal when making giving decisions. According to the report, 32% of Millennials (ages 20-36) and 45% of Generation Z (ages 18 and 19) respondents say passion and sincerity is a top perceived signal of trust, as compared to only 9% of Matures (ages 72-89). In addition, racial minorities and younger generations are more likely to perceive verifying trust in a charity as “easy,” suggesting that these groups are less likely to take the extra step to vet a charity before giving.

The Donor Trust Report offers a macro-level view of the state of public trust for the charitable sector as a whole and for specific charity types. Other themes covered include: triggers of trust at the individual donor level, presentation of donor attitudes along generational and racial lines, and shifting views about generosity more broadly.

BBB’s urges donors to give thoughtfully by taking the time to look into charities before making a donation and to visit to verify if a charity meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

About BBB Wise Giving Alliance:

BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB’s is a standards-based charity evaluator that seeks to verify the trustworthiness of nationally-soliciting charities by completing rigorous evaluations based on 20 holistic standards that address charity governance, results reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues. National charity reports are produced by the BBB WGA and local charity reports are produced by local Better Business Bureaus – all reports are available at


For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

MEDIA CONTACTS: For more information, journalists should contact Katherine Hutt ( or Bennett Weiner (703-247-9323 or

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