A recent public opinion poll by Proof Communications, which runs the CanTrust index, dealing with trust shows a 6% decline for the non-profit and charity sector from May to September 2020.  Clearly having over 2 months of very negative WE Charity coverage was one factor resulting in a loss of trust.

I recently wrote an article on the topic of What will be the impact of the WE Charity scandal on the Canadian charity sector? and I think that it may take many more months or years to actually see or understand the full impact.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • The CanTrust survey involving 1000 people apparently asked about the trust in Charities/Not-For-Profits.  This is not just about charities but the larger voluntary sector and therefore I am not sure how much one can draw relating specifically to charities.
  • We know with detailed studies on the public’s perception of charities that different sub-sectors have vastly different levels of trust and therefore a decline overall in trust may affect certain subsectors more than others.  For example, children’s hospitals have high levels of trust and the international development sector has the lowest level of public trust.  The focus on WE Charity, which was partly focused on International development, may have a more significant impact on the trust for international development charities.
  • It is concerning that the level of trust from May to September 2020 has declined 6% largely erasing the increased trust that charities and non-profits enjoyed in May 2020 and presumably the earlier increase in trust was related to the response to COVID.
  • The WE Charity scandal is not over and there may be further erosion in the public’s trust in charities and non-profits.
  • When you start looking at different provinces the story becomes bleaker with non-profits and charities enjoying 37% trust in Alberta!
  • Also worrisome is that as people become older their level of trust in non-profits/charities seems to decline to 42% with those over 55 years of age.  On the bright side, those under 35 have higher levels of trust at 61%.  However, keep in mind the significant importance of the over 55 age group when it comes to major gifts, bequests, etc.


Trust in the non-profit and charity sector is not static.  Actions can be taken to improve the public’s understanding of the voluntary sector, increase transparency and accountability and trust. However, if we continue to want to eliminate more basic requirements for charities (as we did for charities and political activities) and make charities more like for-profit businesses then trust in charities may continue to decline.  However as I discuss in my recent article, some people may unfortunately be quite happy with the erosion of trusts in charities.

The Charity Report also wrote about the topic of a decline in charity trust.