Government approves performance web site

The Government has backed the idea of a web site that provides the public with information about the performance of charities.

A joint discussion document from Chancellor Gordon Brown and Home Secretary David Blunkett published last week gives its blessing to a UK version of the American GuideStar database.

The GuideStar site allows people to check the finances and compare the performances of 850,000 not-for-profit organisations in the US.

"There is enormous potential to provide better information for potential donors," the report, entitled Next Steps on Volunteering and Giving in the UK, says. "We in government would like to do further work on how best to do this building on the Strategy Unit report ... the Government is interested in whether and how a similar database (to GuideStar) might be established in the UK."

The document follows a recommendation in the Government review of charity law that recommends all large charities submit an annual information return covering issues such as impact, fundraising ratios and investment strategies. This will then be placed on the Charity Commission's web site.

The Institute of Philanthropy is working on a feasibility study for GuideStar UK, which should be complete by the end of this month.

The wide-ranging discussion document also promises a government-backed "Corporate Challenge" to encourage business support for the voluntary sector, which was trailed in last month's pre-Budget report. It would promote tax incentives for giving and initiatives for employee volunteering, as well as the sharing of best practice between the private and voluntary sectors.

Stuart Etherington, chief executive at NCVO, urged the Government to get tough with business over its relationship with the voluntary sector.

"The Corporate Challenge really will be a challenge for business when you consider that despite a great deal of rhetoric about the importance of CSR (corporate social responsibility), the reality is that corporate donations to charity are worth less now than they were in 1991," he said.

"Clearly it is time for the Government to get tough with the business sector and ensure that it plays its part in creating a more caring, socially responsible Britain."

Another measure outlined in Next Steps includes a review led by the Department for Education and Skills on how students can be encouraged to volunteer during their gap years. The review will "improve" information about the benefits of gap-year volunteering.

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