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Independent Sector releases third annual report on trust in civil society

Written on Jun 28, 2022

Independent Sector has released its third annual Trust in Civil Society survey which found while there is room for U.S. institutions across the board to increase public trust, a majority of respondents believes nonprofits will still do what is right for society. 

The survey – conducted in February and in partnership with Edelman Data & Intelligence – revealed that 56% of Americans said they trust nonprofits, down a statistically significant 3-points from the 2020 benchmark study (59%). Philanthropy trust edged down from 36% to 34% (a 2-point drop) during the same period, but this difference is not statistically significant. 

Given this year’s findings, the 2022 Independent Sector Trust in Civil Society report offers steps and ideas for nonprofits and philanthropy to make greater progress to support and strengthen the country. They include leveraging trust in the social sector to strengthen U.S. democracy, deepening engagement with communities and institutions, and upholding public expectations of government accountability. 

This year’s trust study provides data by income, gender, education level, age groups, race and ethnicity, and political affiliation. It shows where gaps in public trust can be narrowed. It also breaks down how the public views corporate philanthropy, private foundations, and high-net worth individuals. 

Findings include: 

  • Financial well-being and education are major drivers of trust. 

  • Trust of nonprofits among women declined during the pandemic. 

  • Gen Z is skeptical of the nonprofit sector. 

  • Integrity and purpose remain critical to building and maintaining nonprofit trust. 

  • Black Americans have higher than average trust in nonprofits and philanthropy. 

For this third annual report, Edelman Data & Intelligence conducted one national survey of 3,015 Americans ages 18+ from February 7 to 28 of this year.