Trusted Institutions

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations remain trusted community resources throughout the pandemic, even as trust in other civic institutions frays.

CEO, Valley Vision
March 31, 2021

So many aspects of community life have been turned upside down in the last year in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate these effects, people across the capital region, especially people of color and young people, are facing health and economic crises, as shown in the recent COVID-19 Resilience Poll that Valley Vision and Capital Public Radio conducted in partnership with the Institute of Social Research at Sacramento State. 

However, in the midst of these crises, the poll shows there is at least one bright spot. People in our region remain confident in nonprofits and philanthropy in their communities, as this social sector has been central to the well-being of people and communities during the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 Resilience Poll is a public opinion poll that tracks experiences and perspectives on the impacts of COVID-19 in the capital region. This poll, both demographically representative and statistically significant, shows that trust in our civic fabric is fraying as we endure and navigate the pandemic, and people are relying on philanthropy and nonprofits more than ever. 

The poll data reflects a growing mistrust of the federal government with 58% rating their response to the pandemic as "inadequate" or "poor" in May and 63% in September. For local government, 26%  gave the same negative rating in May and 40% in September. 

We saw similar trends for school systems, national and local media, and business. Only nonprofits escaped the loss of trust we saw across all other institutions. Respondents were least likely to rate nonprofits’ responses  as “inadequate” or “poor,” with only 15% in both May and September, showing no trend of decreasing trust or goodwill. Philanthropy was close behind with 20% offering a negative rating in May and 22% in September. With communities hurting, nonprofits and philanthropy are trusted support systems. 

Community support systems are more important than ever. 

In the capital region, the poll showed that many people, especially Black, Hispanic, and younger people, are facing health hardships as well as financial instability. Forty-seven percent of all respondents and 70% of Black respondents have seen their income decrease. For respondents whose income has significantly decreased, 58% are struggling to afford an adequate food supply and 62% cannot afford rent or mortgage. Between a quarter and a third of respondents are concerned about substance use, the physical and emotional well-being of children in the household, and safety from being physically or emotionally harmed in the home. For Black respondents, these numbers are nearly double across the board. The hardships reflected in the survey findings are staggering and show the level of vulnerability for people in our communities as the pandemic rages on.

Just as people in our communities are vulnerable, so are our systems of response. Despite high levels of trust in nonprofits and philanthropy, this sector cannot solve these monumental problems alone. With nonprofit workers often on the frontlines of the pandemic, organizations stretched to their limits as they adapt to growing community needs, and giving trends uncertain as the pandemic stretches on, the sector itself is vulnerable. 

Nonprofits and philanthropy have earned the trust of communities and must, in turn, be supported by communities and civic institutions to ensure that this important social sector remains a resilient and trusted resource for people in the capital region.  


Visit to view complete findings from the COVID-19 
Resilience Polls.