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6th November 2023

Trust, Recruitment, and Beyond: Insights from the OSCR Scottish Charity Survey

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) Scottish Charity Survey measures trust and confidence in the charity sector, including awareness of the Scottish charity regulator.

The survey also considers the perception of OCSR among charities in terms of its effectiveness, usefulness, and supportiveness. The most recent survey was carried out in February 2022, providing the first opportunity to consider how COVID-19 impacted the relationship between the Scottish public and charity sector.

Trust in Charities with Paid Staff and Volunteers

The survey indicates that trust in charities has increased between 2020 and 2022. This is the case in charities run solely by volunteers or a mix of paid staff and volunteers, but the rise is greater for charities with paid staff.

Small charities were more likely to curtail services during COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, which could increase distrust and the public view of smaller charities. The findings suggest that further research is needed to understand the variation in public trust in charities.

Involvement of Volunteers and Trustees

Almost three quarters of charities engage volunteers in addition to their trustees, with a further 25% involved trustees only in 2022. The proportion of charities with both trustees and volunteers in other roles has increased between 2018 and 2022.

  • For charities with an income of between £25,001 and £100,000 there was a decline in the proportion of charities with ‘trustees only’ between 2018 and 2020 followed by an increase between 2020 and 2022.
  • For charities with an income over £100,000 the proportion with ‘trustees only’ has steadily increased over time, while the proportion of charities with ‘both trustees and volunteers in other roles’ has decreased.

It could be that volunteering programmes here are more susceptible to change; through reduced staffing (during the pandemic), higher costs or cuts to funding (during the cost-of-living crisis). This may also be indicative of volunteer recruitment issues facing these organisations.

Recruitment of Volunteers and Trustees

Charities faced recruitment issues for volunteers and trustees in 2022, with 28% of charities experiencing issues recruiting volunteers and 25% facing issues recruiting trustees.

While there has been a slight improvement in recruitment between 2020 and 2022, there has also been an 8% increase in the proportion of charities reporting recruitment as a top three issue. The recruitment of volunteers is more of an issue for smaller income charities than it is for larger charities.

Trustee recruitment issues have decreased for charities irrespective of income, but the decrease is larger for charities with an income over £25,000. Recruitment of volunteers impacts smaller charities more than larger charities, and the same is true for trustees. Charities with no paid staff are more likely to have recruitment issues than those with paid staff. The increased ‘visibility’ of larger organisations with established ‘brands’ for prospective volunteers may also help to explain this finding.

Focus on Trustees

In 2022, 4% of public respondents were currently engaged as a charity trustee or a member of a charity’s board or management committee.

The demographic groups with the highest proportion of respondents currently involved are 17–24-year-olds and adults currently involved with a charity. There are no statistically significant differences between gender or whether public respondents had given time, goods, or money to charities.

In the last five years, 5% of respondents, who do not currently act as a charity trustee, or a member of a charity’s board or management committee have been engaged in this way in the past 5 years. The proportion of trustees and management members in charities has the potential to increase, with 13% of public respondents having considered becoming a charity trustee or a member of a charity’s board or management committee.


Net trust in charities has increased between 2020 and 2022, but there are crucial differences between the two types of charities.

For charities run by volunteers and paid staff, net trust has almost doubled. However, there is a higher increase in distrust for volunteer led charities.

Recruitment of both volunteers and trustees features in the top three issues faced by charities in 2022. Both volunteer and trustee shortages are more acute for smaller income charities, charities with no paid staff and longer established charities.

If you have any questions regarding this report or any other Research enquiries please contact research@volunteerscotland.org.uk

View full OSCR Charity Survey 2022 Report by Debbie Maltman here.

Kelly Eagle

Research Officer