Trust is an earner … I mean trust is earned, right?

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

How important is trust when you donate to charity? Do you want to know how your money is being spent?

Steve Hedley, our CEO, discusses the questions that we should be asking of charities before we donate our time and money.

How does a charity earn your trust? Certainly, benefitting from the charity yourself or knowing someone in it helps. Reputation plays a big part in earning trust – doing something you personally believe in is essential. You wouldn’t trust a charity that does something you couldn’t care less about.

Well, maybe you might trust them but you wouldn’t donate to a cause that doesn’t move you. You might trust that they are well governed, use charitable donations properly and hopefully achieves its mission. It may be just in your ball park – big, small, local, national, cool, trendy, homely or passionate enough. This is already a lot more questions than most people ask before they donate to a charity.

What about ‘what percentage of my donation goes to the cause?’ We get asked this question a lot and we’re not alone. There is something trustworthy about this question, because we think trust is the answer.

Should we? When we started eight years ago we embarked on a strategy to practise what we preach: employment is the long term solution to homelessness or, put another way, independence means paying your own way. We haven’t relied on government handouts in over five years and have developed streams of incline that are sustainable. After administration, finance and CEO costs, 75% of our income goes to the cause. But, in our opinion, this is the wrong question.

For example, a night shelter that spends 20% of it’s income on administration and rent and 80% on giving people respite for six weeks sounds like it’s efficient and has its priorities right. You can trust it, right? Especially if the shelter in the next town spends over 50% on staff and rent. By comparison this seems expensive, wasteful and inefficient. But, what if the first centre closed and despite having emergency accommodation, good food and companionship for six weeks, more than half of the people using the service returned to the streets? Yet, in the second shelter everyone who used it was not only housed but were provided with continued support to sustain new tenancies long after the shelter had closed.

We believe a better question for a charity is: Are you good at achieving your mission? Does a medical research charity make grants to those most likely to find a cure or just to those who do research? Does a children’s charity actually improve the quality of children’s lives or just provide things for children to do? For us, it’s ‘does my donation help you to beat homelessness?’

We measure two things: Are people still housed two years after moving out of our properties? Are people in employment?

Our last survey achieved a 30% response rate from over 130 people who moved on from our service – 100% were still housed and 60% were working.

Homelessness has risen by 55% over the last year in the UK – we need to grow our services for people suffering homelessness and to prevent more people sinking into homelessness.

By joining us in our Big SleepOut you will be raising funds that enable us to provide more support to help more people suffering homelessness and you will be providing emergency services to rough sleepers.

Does my donation help to beat homelessness? Yes.

Trust is an earner … I mean trust is earned, right?