Charities should be ranked according to how much they benefit the public so people can make more informed giving choices, according to Martin Brookes, chief executive of think tank New Philanthropy Capital.
"One often hears exhortations to people to give more, but rarely does one hear pleas for donors to give better or smarter," Brookes said in a speech at the RSA last night.
He said that in creating such a list a sensible place to start would be prioritising needs.
"Something like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be useful," he said. "This begins with physiological needs such as food and water, rising through to safety, belonging and esteem, and ending with self-actualisation, such as creativity.
"Where we give and how we give matter, morally. Some charitable causes are just ‘better’, and more deserving, than others."
But Stephen Bubb, head of chief executives body Acevo, said the idea ran counter to the whole concept of giving.
"Giving is a matter of personal choice," said Bubb. "And it’s impractical to build such an index. Who is going to decide which cause is more moral than another?"
Beth Breeze, researcher at the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, whose research was cited in Brookes’s speech, said the voluntary side of giving was very important but that there was no harm in providing people with information.
"I’m in favour of people having as much information as possible, but I don’t know if such an index would facilitate the change from taste-based giving to needs-based giving," she said.