Better Business Bureau: Fewer than 1 in 4 donors 'highly trust' charities

RENO, Nev. — Only 19% of individuals say they highly trust charities, according to a new study by Better Business Bureau's, but 70% rate trust in a charity as essential before giving.

The group in November released the 2019 Donor Trust Report, the second edition of an annual survey of 2,100 adults across America.

“It's so important to be able to trust charities, because the work they do in our communities is essential,” said Jane Rupp, president and CEO of the bureau's Northern Nevada and Utah branch, in a statement. “When people donate their hard-earned money, they want to make sure it's going to a trustworthy organization that will use those donations honestly and ethically.”

Report highlights include:

  • Trust is essential: 70% of respondents rated the importance of trusting a charity before giving as essential (9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). However, only 19% of respondents say they highly trust charities (9 or 10 on a 10-point scale).
  • There is a gender gap: 72% of women (as compared to 67% of men) rated the importance of trust before giving as essential. Only 18% of women (as compared to 21% of men) highly trust charities. While there is ample space to build trust among both genders, the trust gap is wider for women.
  • Significant trust drops for two types of charities: The portion of respondents that say they highly trusted civil rights and community action organizations was only 16% in 2018, as compared to 25% in 2017. Similarly, the portion of respondents that highly trusted religious organizations was only 28% in 2018, as opposed to 32% in 2017. Change in trust for other charity categories were moderate and tended toward higher trust.
  • Accomplishments signal trust: When asked what most signals that a charity is trustworthy, the top factors in 2017 and 2018 were: accomplishments shared by the organization, third-party evaluations by an independent organization, and financial ratios. The portion of respondents choosing accomplishments as one of the most important signals of trust grew from 44% in 2017 to 54% in 2018.

Learn more

The 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


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