Charity Commission could revolutionise charity data, NCVO tells consultation

Umbrella body says the regulator should lead the sector into a new culture of transparency


The Charity Commission has an opportunity to revolutionise the way information about charities is kept and accessed, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The umbrella body’s response to the regulator’s consultation on its information strategy, which closed last week, includes "some wider reflections on how new data, information and technological advances have the potential to transform the sector".

"Through this review, the Charity Commission could revolutionise the way it manages the information it already has available and how it will collect further information in the future," the response says.

"We are living in an era of digital connectivity, in which the power of social media and more generally of information is able to influence the lives of billions. It is essential that the Charity Commission keeps step with this changing landscape, not only for the health of our sector but also to ensure its prosperity."

The submission suggests the commission adopts an "open data" approach, under which organisations would be free to use, reuse and redistribute information, providing they acknowledged the source of it.

"The Charity Commission has the opportunity to act as the catalyst, leading the whole sector into a new culture of openness and transparency," the response says.

One way of doing this, it says, could be to turn the register of charities into a "hub" of information by making the data available in a variety of formats that could allow new data to spin off and grow.

"We understand this will require investing some resources, but we believe the potential benefits for the sector and for the commission itself would strongly justify the investment and outweigh the costs," the response says.

The submission says the NCVO does not agree with the suggestion that charities that file their accounts late could have Gift Aid payments withheld or that late filers should be fined.

Like the Charity Finace Group, it says the summary information return, which charities with annual incomes of £1m must submit to the commission with their accounts, should be dropped.

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