The Charity Sleuths

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

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Terrorist questions

On Friday I scribbled our basic summary of UK-registered Palestinian charity Interpal. It reads thus (and here's an example of the word length and style we're using for our 500 reviews) :

Despite having been completely cleared of allegations of aiding terrorists, this development and relief trust has endured a heap of bad publicity. Ignore that; we found little to complain about in its clear and informative annual report."

However having just watched Panorama's report on the searingly obvious links between Hamas and the schools which Interpal funds, I'm going to have to rewrite it. The situation raises several questions for us:

  • Our overviews are supposed to be based primarily on what we find in a charity's annual report, relative to that financial year. We don't intend to touch them until we see the following year's annual report. Under which situations do we revise the overview?
  • Each review will have a "right to reply" area where charities will have space for 30 words to respond to the review. Under which circumstances will we offer an update on that?
  • Our reviews will carry links to related websites. If a website carries potentially damaging information about a charity - again, in which circumstances will we publish its address?

Suggestions by comment link below please...



Anonymous Sion said...

It's a very difficult issue.

You say that basing your summaries on the annual report allows for consistency. It would be too difficult, so you say, to bring in all sorts of other sources, such as the charities' websites. But in this instance, you're prepared to make changes based on a report on Panorama.

Fine... on the face of it. Panorama is almost certainly a reputable source. But is it more reputable than the Charity Commission itself, which has twice cleared Interpal of wrongdoing? If Panorama is deemed OK, would you report allegations made by Channel 4 News? Channel 5 News?

How about the Daily Mail? When they publish one of their occasional rants about how The Woodcraft Folk is a communist organisation corrupting our children, would you deem that noteworthy to report? What if it's only a single columnist on the Daily Mail saying it?

Would you link to Fathers4Justice criticising the NSPCC? Probably not - but what about information on the Victoria Climbie enquiry?

I don't have any answers - and I don't envy you trying to make those decisions!

9:01 am  
Blogger The Intelligent Giving Team said...

Thank you Sion. All good points (and examples). I feel a policy document coming on...


11:49 am  
Blogger Helen said...

I like to add another layer of complexity. For me the most significant is the way staff and volunteers are treated. Large charities can produce sleek accounts in glossy brochures so it is difficult to figure out what is really going on. You cannot rely only on journalist reports. If staff are treated half decently it is likely that the charity also treats its money, its charitable projects and its contacts with political groups carefully. If you see a high staff turn over then it is likely that all the rest is on the same level. I hope you will offer some space on your website for people like me to grass anonymously so charities will have to clean up their act. Some charities treat their staff as disposable because nobody know and because there is many more charitable souls out there to replace.

6:26 pm  

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