The Charity Sleuths

What the Intelligent Giving researchers are uncovering, and whose turn it is to make the tea

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Back to the future

As potential donors, it is comforting to know what the charity is planning to do with our money when they get it. What has been staggering, throughout our research, is the number of charities who fail to set out future plans of any sort – a conservative estimate would be that 4 out of 5 charities don’t.

However, the problems do not stop there. Of the ones that do, most only give plans for the next financial year.

Plans for less than 2 years are not enough

The reason is this: charities do not have to present their report to the charity commission for a full 10 months after their year ends, and many do not even manage this.

Therefore, as frequently happens, I find myself reviewing charities’ reports for the year ending 31 December 2004; if they do give their future plans, they will probably only cover 2005; it is now half way through 2006. Consequently, I have no real idea what the charity may be doing now.

I know that planning for the future must be difficult for charities, who are naturally uncertain of their income. But no plans at all, or ones that do not extend for at least 2 years, do not fill me with confidence about an organisation.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that charities tend to be more dynamic and react to the conditions that they are faced with. Funding issues also mean that they cannot commit to long term plans - especially where they may only receive funding on an annual basis with no guarantees for the future. This is not an ideal position, but the charity is there to do what it can. If they did come up with grand plans that could not be realised 2 years down the line (because the local authority decided to pull the plug) then they would have wasted the money, time and energy used in setting up the grand idea.

11:10 am  
Anonymous Mark said...

To set your mind at rest (it's clear from your blog that you get anxious very easily about this sort of thing, leading you to draw huge conclusions from tiny and unscientific sampling), I have worked for several charities, and most have indeed had 3 or 5 year plans, updated on a rolling basis. These are often shared with key donors and prospective supporters through meetings, presentations, mailings, and other publications. The fact that they do not appear in the statutory annual review should not lead you to assume that they do not exist, nor that they are hidden from the public. The guidelines about what to include in the annual review, unsurprisingly, steer charities towards confining it to a commentary on the previous 12 months of activity.

9:56 am  
Blogger The Intelligent Giving Team said...


Thankyou for your comment. First, I would like to say that I do not doubt that the charities have future plans. However, as you yourself say, it is surely in the charities' best interests to share them with prospective donors so that they know what projects their money will be supporting when it reaches the charity.

Due to the importance of future plans for prospective donors, therefore, would it not be a great idea to include them in all charities' public facing documents so that the information is easy for prospective donors to find?

On this basis, we will be rewarding charities that give clear future plans by including this in our criteria for charity reviews.

Ultimately, we hope that this will lead to greater transparency of information about charities, and hence greater confidence in giving and increased donations.

10:14 am  
Anonymous Stuart said...

Can we see the detailed plans for the next five years of Intelligent Giving please?
Your home page doesn't even give a date for the launch of the site, it just says, "In the autumn" which is a bit vague.

8:41 am  
Blogger The Intelligent Giving Team said...

Hi Stuart,

We aim to launch the site on November 1. However, the technology behind the site is brand new and developed specifically for us, so teething problems are inevitable, hence our hesitation in committing to a date.

In terms of our future plans, 2007 will be a year of consolidation and expansion. Our main aim is to expand our reviews across a broader range of sectors in order to make the site a more comprehensive source of information for donors.

Should you wish to invest in Intelligent Giving we would be more than happy to go into further detail with you, however I am not sure if we are geared up to take donations...

8:58 am  

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