UK charities should plan on protecting their reputations as more than one in three people have a lack of trust in the institutions, according to a poll by Ipsos Mori for the New Philanthropy Capital.
The survey, which questioned more than 1,000 people, found 35% have low levels of trust in charities (rating them five or less out of ten) and only 22% are very positive (rating them at eight or higher).
The research also revealed people are less trusting if they mostly see charities as international rather than national or local.
Those who think of national or local charities, as opposed to international charities, are more likely to have high levels of trust (27% vs 21%).
In addition, people are less trusting if they see charities as political.
Those who think of charities that don't get involved in politics, as opposed to those that do, are more likely to have high levels of trust (29% vs 15%).
"Our new polling should act as a wake-up call," said Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC.
"Public trust is likely influenced by recent high-profile controversies around pay and campaigning, and charities haven't yet come up with a convincing response.
"The prevailing image to emerge from the polling is of more distrust for organisations seen to be large, professional and politicised—and the biggest challenge is for charities who most resemble this image.
"Charities need to address public concerns in a transparent, robust way.
"Where charities do terrific work, and can prove the positive impact they have on the lives of people who depend on them, they should be shouting this from the rooftops, starting now."
The Matter of Trust report also found people are more trusting if they see charities as run by volunteers.
Those who think of volunteer-led charities, as opposed to charities run by professionals, are more likely to have high levels of trust (28% vs 22%)
NPC also explained that the more people know about charities, the more they tend to trust them.
Almost seven out of ten (69%) of people who say they know a great deal or fair amount about a charity have high or medium trust in them — although 30% of these people still say their trust in charities is low.
In addition, the study found that the more contact people have with charities, the more they claim to know about them.
For example, 70% of people who have volunteered for charities say they know a great deal or a fair amount about them, while only 30% of people who have no contact with charities claim the same.