Trends & data analysis

Charities donít base actions on evidence, public believes

23 March 2015

Only 41% think charities make evidence-led decisions

Less than half of the public believes charities make decisions based on evidence, according to new research by NPC.

The research – Show and tell: charities, polling & evidence of doing good – found that out of 1,009 people, 54% would be more likely to donate to a charity if they believed its decisions were based on evidence, rather than “what they think is right”. However, only 41% said charities do make evidence-led decisions in practice.

The desire to see more decisions based on evidence rather than values was most articulated by those aged between 55 and 75. From this age group, 60% would be more likely to donate money to a charity if it based decisions on evidence, while only 25% would donate to those that decide what to do based on what they think is right.

The preference for evidence-based decision-making was prevalent among all age groups, although those preferring values-based decision-making were most common in the 35-44 age bracket (35%).

The results also suggest that the public wants charities to be open about past failures. With the polling split in half, 504 people were asked if they agree it is vital for charities to use evidence to show the difference they make, even if that means revealing that “some of their past projects have failed”. This question was met with a resounding 74% agreement. When the other half of the sample were given a shorter statement without the mention of past failure, the proportion in favour rose only slightly to 78%.

Commenting on the research, NPC chief executive Dan Corry said that for charities, “being open about what works is crucial to maintaining public trust”. He added: “If voluntary organisations can show that this includes them, they should reap some the rewards of greater public trust.”

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Gareth Jones

Gareth Jones is a journalist and communications consultant specialising in charity finance. As editorial manager of Slack Communications, he co-authors Charity Financials' range of Spotlight reports and writes regularly for the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. Previously he was editor of the Charity Finance Group's member magazine Finance Focus and senior reporter at both Charity Finance magazine and

Elsewhere he writes articles and edits special supplements for the New Statesman, advises businesses and charities on their PR, blogging and digital strategies, and holds a master's degree in Public Policy from King's College London.

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