Want trust and confidence? Demonstrate your impact

Tuesday’s Charity Commission study into public trust and confidence in charities shows some sad but perhaps unsurprising results. Overall trust and confidence has reduced significantly in the last few years, particularly trust in larger charities.

Recent scandals have made the public want more transparency. According to the Commission’s report, one of the five key drivers of trust in charities is whether or not they make a positive difference to the cause they are working for.

Conversely, the second most important reason for not trusting charities is not being able to see the outcome. In other words, the public wish – very sensibly – to know what impact charities are making. Why give money to save the whale, if you don’t know how many whales are being saved?

So, if you are not already one of the growing proportion of charities doing so, grasp the nettle and demonstrate your impact.

So many reasons to do this

We understand many charities lack time for developmental work. But this isn’t a nice-to-have any more; not being able to articulate, communicate and demonstrate their impact is causing some charities to fail.

As for the positive reasons; our clients report that their impact data helps them win funding and support, and to make better decisions as to how to use their scarce resources. All this means they can maximise their impact for vulnerable people at the front line.

Don’t wait to get it perfect

Evaluation is seldom a perfect science. It is, after all, highly applied social research. If you wait to get it completely right, you’ll never start. So keep it small, have a go, and improve in later versions. Identify a few outcomes and collect data on those; build your system as you grow in confidence. Use those early results to convince staff and other stakeholders of the value of an impact approach.

Make it accessible

The Charity Commission study also reports that the public want impact findings that are accessible. At NCVO CES we’ve been experimenting with a range of ways to demonstrate impact that either supplement the formal report or indeed replace it. For example podcasts and webinars, PowerPoint presentations, visuals and infographics.

Use what’s out there

To help you get it right, build on the learning generated by us and others in the sector who have been doing this for years; there are a wealth of resources out there for charities wishing to demonstrate impact. The NCVO CES website has loads of free resources and how-to guides on evaluation and impact assessment, as does NCVO Knowhow Nonprofit and Inspiring Impact.


As a sector we should be at the heart of our society, delivering excellent services while being fully trusted by the public. It’s time to win that trust and confidence back, and a key way to do that is to demonstrate your impact.


Focusing on impact – 7 November

Trustees could attend our Focusing on impact workshop at the November NCVO Trustee Conference, to learn about linking impact and strategy.

Find out more


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Avatar photo Sally Cupitt is Head of NCVO Charities Evaluation Services. She been a consultant at CES for over 20 years. She specialises in independent evaluations of voluntary sector organisations, research and helping organisations to develop and implement monitoring and evaluation frameworks and systems.

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