Explaining Trust in Canadian Charities: The Influence of Public Perceptions of Accountability, Transparency, Familiarity and Institutional Trust

Abstract

Public trust of nonprofits can augment social benefits of the nonprofit sector by enhancing engagement of the general population in the sector. This study analyzed cross sectional data collected from a random sample of Canadians (n = 3853) to test the effects of respondents’ perceptions of financial accountability, transparency, and familiarity of charitable nonprofits, along with the effects of trust in key institutions on their general trust in charitable nonprofits. Results show that each factor (except for trust in government institutions) has a significant effect on the level of trust respondents had in charitable nonprofits. The study helps advance our understanding of what contributes to trust in charitable nonprofits among Canadians and offers suggestions on how nonprofits can garner greater trust with the population.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These are nonprofits that are tax-exempt [(501(c)(3) designation in the US] and whose primary activities are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, and literary. They test for public safety, foster amateur sports competition, prevent cruelty to children, or prevent cruelty to animals. In this paper, we refer to such nonprofits as ‘charities’ both to distinguish them from the many other nonprofits and to be consistent with the term used in the Canadian context where this research is based.

  2. 2.

    A copy of this survey is publicly available at: https://www.muttart.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/3.-Talking-About-Charities-Full-Report-2013.pdf.

  3. 3.

    We dichotomized this variable from the question “As far as you can remember, did you donate to charities in 2012?” Regarding volunteering, participants were asked whether they volunteered for any charity in 2012.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to have this data which were made available to us by generosity of the Muttart Foundation (Canada) and Imagine Canada. The authors are very grateful to the Muttart Foundation and Imagine Canada for the use of their 2013 dataset.

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Farwell, M.M., Shier, M.L. & Handy, F. Explaining Trust in Canadian Charities: The Influence of Public Perceptions of Accountability, Transparency, Familiarity and Institutional Trust. Voluntas 30, 768–782 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-018-00046-8

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Keywords

  • Trust
  • Nonprofit
  • Charity
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Familiarity