Survey finds weaknesses in transparency and accountability

ImpACT coalition finds charities rate themselves most highly on donor care

Charities count transparency and accountability policy as the weakest of eight aspects of their work examined in a new self-assessment survey.

The ImpACT Coalition asked 30 charities to rate their effectiveness in transparency-related fields, including governance, donor care and communications. Points were allocated according to the responses, with a possible total of 100 in each subject area. Transparency and accountability policy received the lowest average score of 56 per cent.

Charities rated themselves most highly in the area of donor care, where the average score was 92 per cent.

The figures are based on interim results from the ImpACT Coalition's online Toolkit survey, launched in June 2008 to improve transparency and provide a detailed picture of the voluntary sector (18 June 2008, page 4).

Richard Marsh, director of the ImpACT Coalition, which campaigns to improve transparency in charities, said few charities employed a dedicated team for raising standards in that area.

"It is not always clear who is dealing with issues of accountability and transparency," he said. "The challenge is to develop a better system of recognising who stakeholders are and aligning organisational and communications strategies with this," he said.

"Care for your donors is one area where there is clear organisational ownership across departments. It is also an area of activity where there is a high level of public scrutiny and greater care is taken to ensure success."

Marsh said he was unable to reveal which charities had taken part in the survey because it had been done on a confidential basis, and he therefore could not highlight individual charities that had rated themselves as either strong or weak in different areas.

However, he said international development organisations had scored highly. "It is possible that their funding and evaluation systems are more advanced," he said.

Marsh said he was surprised by the variations in the results, and that it was not the case that large charities performed better than smaller ones.

Relatively few charities performed either consistently well or consistently badly, he added.

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