Has Age UK & E.ON news affected charities as a whole?

We test how this latest news has affected the public’s trust of charities

Jonathan Pitts

The news around the E.ON and Age UK energy deal is the latest in a series of bad press for the charity industry, other recent bad press includes the Kids Company funding row and the nuisance fundraising activities carried out by a minority of charities.

At Harris Interactive we work with a number of leading charities to help with their branding and communications as well as the research for the charity brand index. We wanted to see if this latest news has affected the public’s trust towards charities and their preferred communication methods.

We used Harris 24 to survey 400 members of the public and had the results within an hour. [See full data and demographics here]  The first question asked if they were aware of the E.ON and Age UK news story, it seems news travels fast with nearly two thirds (63%) saying they were aware.

Then we looked to see if recent news including this had any effect on their trust towards charities as a whole. Just over a quarter (26%) said their trust to charities hadn’t changed, compared to over half (56%) who said they do now trust them less. The remainder was split amongst people who were not aware of any recent news about charities (13%) and a small amount (5%) who said they trust them more.

It’s interesting to look at just the respondents who said they were aware of the E.ON and Age UK news. Of these respondents 70% said they trust charities less, this shows this recent news has had a negative impact on the public’s trust towards charities.


A lot of bad press coverage over the past 12 months has been because of a small minority of charities using persistent and nuisance fundraising techniques including cold calling and excessive direct mail. We looked to see the public’s preferred communication methods when it came to charities.

Over half (55%) said they do not want to be contacted, showing perhaps the negative impact prior communications have had. Again you can see the negative impact of the E.ON and Age UK story, with 60% of people who were aware of the story saying they do not wish to be contacted. For those who selected a contact method, the most preferred by far was email with over half (51%) of respondents selecting this option.


This is in line with the fact that nowadays more charities are looking to utilise digital communications and move away from cold calling and door knocking.

Even though it’s only a very small minority of charities who receive bad press these results show it’s the industry as a whole that suffers with trust being lost amongst the public.

To regain trust charities have to show donors exactly where their donations go and emotionally engage with their communications in a method that they are receptive to such as email, they shouldn’t raise awareness via unpopular communication methods which can damage donor relationships and brand image.

If you would like a copy of this research to analyse in further detail, or carry out something similar for your own database of donors contact Jonathan Pitts on 0161 242 1363 or email jpitts@harrisinteractive.co.uk


  • Age UK
  • Charity
  • charity brands
  • charity perceptions
  • e.on