The Continuing Crisis in Charitable Confidence

Light, P.C.
Public Service Brief, Robert F. Wagner School, New York University, Oct.

Four years after September 11th, public confidence in charitable organizations remains stuck at a contemporary low. According to a telephone survey of 1,820 randomly-selected Americans interviewed on behalf of NYU Wagner's Organizational Performance Initiative during the summer of 2005, confidence has held virtually constant since it bottomed out after months of controversy
surrounding disbursement of the September 11th relief funds. As of last summer, 15 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in charitable organizations, 49 percent said a fair amount, 24 percent said not too much, and 7 percent said none at all. Public views of how charitable organizations operate also remain unchanged. Only 19 percent of Americans said charitable organizations do a very good job running their programs and services, while just 11 percent said the same about spending money wisely. In addition, 66 percent of Americans said that charitable organizations waste a great deal or fair amount of money, while almost half said the leaders of charitable organizations are paid too much. If the past is prologue, these views will continue to drive higher levels of legislative and media scrutiny, which in turn, may further erode public confidence. The survey also suggests that rebuilding confidence must involve sustained investment in strengthening the capacity of charitable organizations to achieve measurable impacts toward their missions.

Wagner Faculty