How far do Russians trust civil society organisations?

Level of trust : to what extent does society believe civil society organisations?

Why are “charitable” organisations more trusted then “non-commercial“ organisations? By how much has the giving potential of donors been reduced?  How does society understand transparency?  Researchers and experts from the Blagosfera Centre answer these and other questions.




The new season of the ASI – Blagosfera media club opened with a presentation on a research project carried out during the summer of 2022 which, among other issues, looked at: who does society trust, is society prepared to support the non-commercial sector and how can CSOs attract more people.


Are CSOs trusted?

According to the 2022 World Values Survey 13 percent of the Russian population trust humanitarian or charitable organisations.  Slightly more- 15 percent – trust women’s rights organisations. 12 percent of Russians support environmental organisations.


The World Values Survey is a research project which brings together sociologists who study values and their impact on social and cultural life.

According to the Levada Centre (included on the Foreign Agents Register), civil society organisations are in the top five most trusted institutions.

” The wording is important. Trust in a “CSO” will be lower than trust in a “charitable organisation”.  This is due to both the media portrayal of CSOs and also what the law says, notes Yulia Skokova, director of the Centre for Social Initiatives under the Institute for Applied Political Research at HSE (Higher School of Economics) University.


30 percent of Russians trust charitable organisations, according to VTsIOM (Russian Public Opinion Centre)


According to VTsIOM’s data for 2022 those who most trust CSOs are those aged 18-34 and those who consider their material situation to be good or very good.  24 percent of Russians do not trust charitable organisations.  The main reasons include: lack of transparency, lack of control over their activities and the risk of fraud.

Amongst the main reasons given for not taking part in charitable activities are: not having enough money, people only wanting to help people they know and a belief that “such issues” should be dealt with by the state.


Recent trends in trust


In August 2022 the winners of the CSO researchers’ competition Research Got Talent were announced.  This is a competition in which teams carry out research for non-commercial organisations.


Research conducted by the Good Deeds Foundation showed that people viewed the social services offered by CSOs to be less reliable than those provided by the state.  They also found that users of those services were not always convinced that the services offered by CSOS would be free.


“Trust is created and defined by how an organisation engages with people.  Trust is built through personal and informal engagement, which then translates into trust in the organisation” notes Yuliia Skokova.


How do CSOs interact with other sectors?


CSOS are surveyed every year as part of the Pulse of CSOs survey.  This year’s preliminary results are available.

35 percent of leaders believe that CSOs have a good reputation in society, 10 percent do not agree and 51 percent were unsure either way.


18 percent noted that the media were prepared to work with the civil society sector on an equal basis, 13 percent thought that government bodies thought of CSOs as equals, and 5 percent though that business was prepared to work with CSOs on an equal basis.


How is professional charitable sector developing?


At the beginning of September 2022 the Help Needed Foundation, together with the online research agency Tiburon published the findings of a joint piece of research.  These showed that 75 percent of respondents had used the tools of the professional charity sector at least once a year, and that 10 percent used them monthly.


What is the professional charity sector?

In 2022 fewer people participated in the professional charitable sector. In 2021 13 percent of people helped CSOs on a monthly basis.  The main reduction in support occurred in towns with a population between 100 000 and 150 000 people.


The proportion of those who trust and do not trust charitable organisations was approximately equal: 29 percent to 30 percent.  In 2022 the number of those who did not trust foundations increased by 17 percent, the first time for many years that this has been the main reason for not donating to charity.


“45 percent recognise the difference between a charitable organisation and a state entity.  But people do not have a clear understanding of what charitable organisations do.  Are they interested in finding out? Not particularly,” notes Ksenia Babikhina, an analyst in the research department of the Help Needed Foundation.


In 2022 the number of those who were planning to give to charitable organisations dropped from 44 to 37 percent, and the number of those who were uncertain whether they would donate rose.


“We suppose that this is a reaction to external events” note representatives of Help Needed Foundation.


How do CSOS view the problem?


The Reach for Change Foundation supports social entrepreneurs.  The Foundation applied to the Research Got Talent competition with a proposal to study the social enterprise start-up market and investigate ways of attracting investors to the sector.


The research proved the hypothesis that people were largely unaware of social entrepreneurship.  Only 6 percent of those surveyed knew where a social start-up was.


“We also support start-ups in the children’s sector.  If we want to bring about interesting projects and new approaches someone needs to come up with these new ideas.  And for these ideas to come about people need to understand what social enterprises are and what they can do” says Yuliia Varchenko, Director of the Reach for Change Foundation.


The Foundation believes that communication is the solution to this problem.  The Foundation works with business and has found that in order for the employees to participate in the Foundation’s work they need to both trust in and understand what a CSO does.


23 percent of those asked by the Help Needed Foundation were interested in keeping up to date with the work of charitable organisations and their news.


The Reach for Change Foundation has previously conducted internal research with a partner organisation – the Tele2 company – and discovered that employees in the company’s regional offices did not know about the partnership with the Foundation.


The Foundation has identified several actions which can build trust and may be useful to other CSOs:

  • Get onto platforms where you may find potential donors and partners.
  • Work with a young audience rather than trying to “re-educate” an older generation
  • Encourage those who are undecided; in other words those who want to help but do not know how to go about it.
  • Talk to business in their own language

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