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Sceptical yet Supportive: Understanding public attitudes to charity

Breeze, Beth, Mohan, John (2020) Sceptical yet Supportive: Understanding public attitudes to charity. History and Policy, . pp. 1-12. (KAR id:85941)


Executive Summary

A substantial proportion of the British population supports charities by giving time and money, and the work of charitable organisations affects the daily lives of most people.

During the 2020 COVID-19 crisis there has been an unprecedentedly high response to fundraising efforts for NHS charities, notably that organized by 99 year old war veteran Tom Moore.

Despite evident public generosity, there are ongoing debates about the ‘right role’ for charity in relation to state provision as well as concerns about ‘poor practice’ in UK charities, often fueled by media coverage, and these have prompted a number of policy and regulatory initiatives, particularly in relation to fundraising.

Taking a historical ‘long view’ shows that public concerns about charities and charitable practice are long-standing. This paper presents evidence from studies conducted in 1947, 1991 and 2015 which show striking consistency across seventy years in terms of: a lack of detailed public knowledge about the charity sector; ongoing debates about the scope and limits of governmental responsibility and charitable initiative; widespread concern about waste and duplication of charitable efforts; and an enduring sense of frustration with fundraising tactics.

We thus highlight the need to be aware of the existence of a significant and enduring paradox: the reliance of British charity on sceptical but nonetheless supportive donors.

We conclude that efforts to improve the workings of the charity sector (either through legislation or through sector-led initiatives to raise standards) should take account of this paradox by providing a balanced view of the behavior of charities.

Charities can rightly be expected to be held to high standards of behaviour, but so too should those who wish to criticise them. If more is to be expected of charity, it is essential that there is a reasoned and open debate rather than the platitudes and ideological criticisms that have marked public discussion recently.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Charitable giving; Charity; Fundraising; Public attitudes.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV40 Charities
H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Beth Breeze
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2021 21:44 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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