The Charity Sleuths

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

Friday, September 01, 2006

The contents of our charity review pages

The review page template is still being designed but these are the elements we are planning for it:

The page will be headed by the charity name, eg "FARM-Africa"

There will be a headline, eg "FAIR HARVEST FROM AGRICULTURE PROS"

Then a paragraph eg:
"A crew with big ideas, working with everyone from community groups to the World Bank to help African farmers manage their land more efficiently. A well-rounded annual report suggests it's in a strong position all round, with money in the bank and plans for the future, although the report could benefit from more detail of activities."

Then some figures and relevant smiley graphics (yes) to indicate:

  • The quality of the reporting (pivoting on the quality of the annual report) (%)
  • The number of months of expenditure in reserves (# months)
  • Whether or not there is an ethical investment policy (Yes/No/No investments)
  • The organisation's highest salary (no smiley used here)
Each of these entries will have a link called what is this? leading to an explanation.

A lower-profile section called "Misleading figures" will contain (no smileys):
  • Administration costs (%)
  • Fundraising costs (%)
  • Charitable expenditure (%)
Each of these entries will have a link called Why misleading? linking to an explanation.

Then the heading, "If you like this charity, you might like these" followed by five similar charities.

Then a section called "The charity replies" where the charity can write 50 words of its choice.

And finally a link to the annual report, to the GuideStar entry, to the charity's website and to the charity's donations page (on its own website).

Behind this page there will be two more tabs with more financial details and more ways to help (volunteering and challenge events, as provided by the charity).

Responses welcome via the comments option...


Anonymous Michael said...

First impression, as a donor, I like it.

Misleading figures - first impression, very good. Second thoughts, not so good, when people first see it, it'll give the wrong impression. Third thought, it really depends on what the 'why misleading?' link says.

I like the fact that the charity can reply, keeping it limited to 50 words works to everyone's advantage.

One thing that I think might be missing is a bit of information about the number of months expenditure in reserve. Firstly, without guidance, many people won't know whether this is a good or bad state to be in. Similarly what is appropriate for one kind of charity, won't necessarily be so for another.

Otherwise, I like this, as it stands.

One further thought. As well as the links to the charities own sites that you have covered, how about an "ask this charity a question" link, or something linked to a FAQ page? Of course people can find contact details from the links provided, but people like simplicity.

12:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My concern is about the reserves stat too. I've recently done some consulting for a charity who took a difficult decision to withdraw from a service area that was no longer financially sustainable in the long term; the withdrawal included transferring a valuable building to another provider. This means that when you look at their reserves, they have millions in the bank - several years' worth of reserves. Meanwhile, the core service delivery of that charity is running at a loss, with heavy investment in raising its quality subsidised by the reserves, but a plan to make it break even in three years' time. This charity has made a massively brave decision that results in no net loss of services and a better service for its core client group, is in desperate need of donations despite the apparently large reserves, yet would appear prosperous and untroubled on the information you propose...

2:20 pm  
Anonymous michael said...

I would *love* to know if anonymous's charity is the one I think it is.

Of course this situation described is hardly usual, but the figures would create a highly misleading situation. One of the problems, is, how many charities do operate in unusual situations?

Could the charity post a full and clear explanation in only 50 words?

3:17 am  
Blogger The Intelligent Giving Team said...

Thanks both for the thoughtful comments and examples.

Maybe 'misleading figures' is too strong. And, yes, the explanation is very important. In fact the devil is in the detail throughout the site.

FAQ/direct info link idea: I like it, although our experience shows that many charities simply don't respond to emails sent to their 'more info' email addresses. Or not ones from us anyway(!)

As for 50 words being enough, well, that's all we give ourselves for our overview. But there again, their words are at the bottom of the review page so perhaps we can afford more. But no more than 75. One of the things we're afraid of is boring our readers away with long, lazy text.

5:55 pm  

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