How Russians’ attitudes towards CSOs are changing

What do the statistics say about the attitude of the public towards the non-profit sector and is there a dynamic in it?


On 22 December, an online discussion was held on “Attitudes towards CSOs and civic practices: what has changed in the perception of citizens in 2021?” The results of the study were presented by Irina Mersiyanova, Director of the Centre for Research into Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector, National Research University, Higher School of Economics.

The discussion is part of the cycle “What do we know about the state of civil society based on survey data and statistics,” based on interview materials and data from an all-Russian survey of CSOs conducted in 2021 by the Centre for Research into Civil Society and the Non-Profit Sector, National Research University, Higher School of Economics, to monitor the state of civil society.

The big picture

For the study, adults who live in cities and villages were interviewed. In general terms, in 2021, 77% of Russians have heard of at least one CSO in their region, 54% trust at least one CSO, and 28% are involved in the activities of at least one CSO.

According to Mersiyanova, the basic indicator in the study is trust in CSOs.

“In 2021, nothing special happened, the level of trust has remained as it was last year, at 54%,” Mersiyanova notes.

The highest indicator of Russians’ trust in CSOs was in 2017 – 65%, the lowest – in 2010 (35%).

What CSOs do they know about?

In 2021, Russians had most often heard about such CSOs as garden and dacha associations (38%) and trade unions (36%). About 30% of the respondents know about societies for people with disabilities.

27% and 15% of Russians know about charitable organisations and charitable foundations, respectively.

In 2007, these indicators were 28% and 17%, in 2017 – 34% and 20%.

In 2021, 21% of Russians did not know of nor had heard about any CSO.

Which CSOs are trusted?

“Every second Russian says that they trust at least one type of CSO. Not bad,” said Mersiyanova.

The leaders in terms of trust among CSOs are trade unions, they are trusted by 15% of the Russians surveyed.

Charitable organizations in 2021 are trusted by 11%, whereas in 2010 – only 9%. 12% of respondents do not trust such organisations. But having a balance between trust and mistrust is not a bad thing, adds Mersiyanova. According to her, it is impossible to trust abstract objects: if there is no interaction with a CSO, they will not trust it.

In 2021, 7% of Russians trusted charitable foundations, and 14% do not trust them (twice as many).

Participation in the activities of non-profit organizations

The majority of Russians surveyed (71%) do not participate in any way in the activities of any non-profit organisations.

Among the rest, members and members of trade unions make up 8%, garden associations – 7%, charitable organisations – 2%. In 2010, the last figure was zero.

Among those who participate in the activities of non-profit organisations, 41% are participants and members of CSOs, 29% – volunteers, 14% – donors and 9% – employees who work for a salary.

All respondents were asked if they were willing to donate money and time to non-profit organisations. In 2021, almost half of Russians (49%) are ready to donate to CSOs, and somewhat fewer (46%) are willing to spend time on this. In 2014, for example, these figures were 33% and 29%, respectively.

According to Natalia Kaminarskaya, director of Blagosfera, the monitoring and research data should be viewed not as a tragedy, but as a basis for the activities of each CSO.


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