Does the British public see aid for poor, disaster-prone countries as a good cause? Yes. Are they interested in what happens to their money? Yes. Do they know much about it? No.
Those were the main findings of two opinion surveys released in the UK last year by the British Red Cross and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
IDS cautioned that low awareness about how aid is spent could damage support for the British government's commitment to raise its foreign aid budget.
It's a worry shared on a global scale by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The health and development giant has launched a competition to find innovative ways of communicating to the public in developed nations that aid is working, isn't wasted (in the main), and gets good results for poor people.
The foundation has teamed up with the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which brings together the global advertising and communications industry, in what they describe as "a unique call for action that aims to inspire the world's greatest brand communicators to come up with an idea that will help solve a global problem".
"Communication about development aid has long focused on making the case for its need," says Tom Scott, director of global brand and innovation at the Gates Foundation. "There is a huge opportunity to talk about how it works and what it does – to tell the real success stories that exist."
In fact, you don't have to be an advertising whizz kid to enter the fray – the challenge is open to any individual, team, agency or company.
All you have to do is send in a two-page communications idea for telling the positive stories behind global development aid by May 15.
The submissions will be judged by a jury that includes a group of specially selected top creative executives called Cannes Chimera and members of the Gates Foundation's review board. Up to ten of the best will be selected as finalists, receiving $100,000 each to develop their idea.
The winners will also be flown to Seattle and mentored by the Cannes Chimera experts to hone their projects, with a further opportunity to apply for $1 million to put them into practice.
Philip Thomas, Cannes Lions CEO, tells me there's been an enormous amount of interest in the competition from the world's big advertising and design networks.
But they may well need to bring in the relief and development charities they sometimes work with as clients to get the full story on aid, and find beneficiaries who can tell it from their own perspective.
"This is a really complex area," he says, "Most advertising agencies on their own would really struggle to be able to put forward a good case."
Thomas is hoping the competition will throw up some revolutionary ideas, which he believes are likely to be digital and thus able to reach a lot of people.
The web information on the challenge mentions some examples of what the Gates Foundation and Cannes Lions are looking for. They include new ways to collect and share first-person stories from aid recipients; data collection and visualisation that demonstrates where funding goes and its impact; creative distribution mechanisms to deliver stories and other information; and interactive approaches like games and crowdsourcing.
Based on the communications I've seen aid agencies using in the last few years, it seems to me that some of these things are already happening.
The British Red Cross, for example, ran a cutting-edge alternate reality game to introduce people to life in a Ugandan displacement camp through the eyes of a boy called Joseph. And Save the Children did an online multimedia project about its work with the people of Kroo Bay, a slum in Sierra Leone's Freetown, which aimed to link the charity's UK supporters with mothers and children benefiting from the funded activities.
But perhaps efforts so far have been on too small a scale to make a real difference to the wider public's perceptions. And perhaps a competition with more money and the weight of the world's creative industry behind it will be the catalyst needed to change that.
When Cannes Lions' Thomas got the brief from the Gates Foundation, his first reaction was that telling the world aid works is an "extremely difficult" one to crack.
"My second thought was that this is what our industry thrives on – they thrive on being given the most hairy, audacious briefs, because that is what they do for a living," he says. "So why not? Let's just send it out there, and if these guys can't come up with something interesting – and hopefully meaningful – then frankly nobody can."
For information on how to enter the "Aid is Working. Tell the World" competition, visit the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Initiative website.