Assumptions and Expectations: How do your audiences view charities?

Assumptions and Expectations: How do your audiences view charities?

There has been much soul-searching in the charity sector in recent weeks about how it is perceived by external audiences. Do the public, or even politicians and journalists, really understand how charities work today? Do they know that many charities these days are large, professionally run and impactful organisations? Or do they still just imagine an entirely voluntary operation run out of a church that "sticks to the knitting" in the memorable words of Brooks Newmark?

Our latest interactive allows you to explore how the charity sector is perceived by your key audiences. Including data from our research with the general public, MPs and journalists, the two tools below interactively visualise two important questions:

  • How much of their income does an audience think charities spend on administration, fundraising and the cause?
  • How much of their income does an audience think it would be acceptable for charities to spend on administration fundraising and the cause?

The results show that there is much work left for the charity sector to do in informing its key audiences about the work it does. Among the general public, people imagine just 38% is spent on the cause at an average charity. Even when the public is asked what would be an acceptable figure to spend on the cause, the results are surprising - the ideal figure is just 64% for the average person, well below what many charities would report in their accounts.

While MPs think more highly of charities, they also have higher expectations, thinking that charities currently spend 53% of their income on the cause, but thinking that 72% would be acceptable. Journalists may be the most sympathetic audience of all, imagining that 43% is currently spent on the cause and thinking that just 61% would be acceptable. This may be news to anyone who has had to deal with recent negative media coverage about the sector!

Choose from the different audiences below to see a breakdown of how they view the charity sector. Let us know in the comments if you see anything that surprises you!

To find out more about our public research, please get in touch with . To find out more about research with journalists send us an email at, or for politicians.



Submitted by jon matthews (not verified) on 24 Jan 2016


interesting data; just wondering how this varies according to charity size; is there more trust in small local charities. That said I frequently find that small local charities are not recognized as charities as such often perceived to be a part of local government services

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