The Charity Sleuths

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

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why annual reports?

People ask us why we put so much stress on annual reports rather than web sites, since the latter are written for the public. The answer is simple:

Websites are not useful tools to compare charities. Each is very different, created for different purposes (some to help beneficiaries rather than to inform donors, for example), there's no statutory guidance on what should be in them or what they are for, and they can cost a lot of money to build and maintain. So if we compared by website we'd penalise charities that don't understand, or can't afford to create, or don't need, a research-friendly web site.

The annual report meanwhile is the legal document that all charities ought to know how to write. It's the only document they have to produce by law and the only one which has comprehensive guidance on what it should contain. It has certain types of information that no other kind of publication will carry. For example, the top salary, who the trustees are, the risks facing the charity - generally information that organisations don't willingly disclose. It's the only place where the nuts and bolts of the organisation should be described.

It has been suggested that we also look at charities' Annual Reviews. Well, we do, where they exist and when they are referred to in the annual report. But very few charities actually produce them and, again, there's no guidance on what they should contain.

Do tell us if we're repeating ourselves.



Anonymous Julius Huijnk said...

Hi, I'm working on a charity social network site with evaluations called helping you to find a charity you like and can trust.

I just briefly read about your page, but I think our concepts are different enough. Helpalot aims at small charities not perse officially recognised. It's trying to capture 'the wisdom of the crowds' working more like an open Wikipedia you would use for guidance versus your site that is more checked and formal (as I see it now).

I've just put a video online explaining the concept on youtube:

If you think there is any way we can help each other please contact me.

2:08 pm  

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