Independent Sector Releases Third Annual Survey on Trust, Nonprofits, and Civil Society

IS makes recommendations to increase nonprofit trust, as new survey shows trust across U.S. institutions is low

Washington, May 19, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Independent Sector today 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. 

“Increasing public trust of institutions and the social sector is a pressing issue for the U.S. We all benefit from strong public trust,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “Trust is the priceless currency for nonprofits, philanthropies, business charity programs, and all of us to build a healthy, equitable society. We see what happens when trust breaks. Our 2022 Independent Sector Trust in Civil Society report elevates important data and recommendations for conversations about how the social sector can engage more deeply and do better so everyone in our country thrives.”

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.

Among the findings from the 2022 Independent Sector Trust in Civil Society survey:

  • 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. The survey has a margin error of plus or minus 2%. The report’s full methodology is available here.

Independent Sector will hold a free webinar – “Public Trust and Nonprofits: Where do we stand? How do we strengthen it?” – on Tuesday, May 24 from 2 to 3 p.m. ET to discuss this report in greater detail. Joining the conversation will be Cardinali and Ann Mei Chang, CEO of Candid and an Independent Sector board member. Webinar registration information is available here.


Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations working to ensure all people in the United States thrive. Learn more at


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