Hot issue: Are charities really afraid of committing to transparency?

Charities are increasingly saying they want to be open and transparent, but some commentators believe that they are often scared of opening up to public scrutiny.

YES

DAVID PITCHFORD, EDITOR, INTELLIGENT GIVING

I suspect there are two fears: a fear of increased workload and fear of how the extra information will be used.

Both are unfounded. Making annual reports more comprehensive - the core issue - is simple and creates a positive ripple effect. We know from research and experience that organisations learn more about themselves from the process, while stakeholders gain more understanding and confidence in their involvement.

Fearing how the extra information might be used should be the least of charities' worries - unless they have something to hide. The fact is, charity comparisons are coming. At least three bodies in the US compare charities and we are the first of several looking to do the same here.

The difference is that our rankings are based purely on transparency, whereas in the US they are based on finances. Transparency criteria are easier to meet than accounting targets - and we feel they are more valuable.

Full details of our transparency criteria, along with examples of good reporting, are on our website. It would take only a day for most charities to apply the criteria to their own annual report.

NO

ALAN GOSSCHALK, CHAIR, IMPACT COALITION

Charities are well aware of the need to be more transparent. Levels of trust in charities are high, but research shows that none of our key stakeholders understand enough about what charities do, how they make a difference and the economics of fundraising.

They are not afraid of being much more transparent. However, you can understand why they are a bit wary. Self-appointed watchdogs such as Intelligent Giving fail to engage with the sector - where's the transparency in that?

Charities shy away from naming and shaming. Quite apart from the fact that it is unpleasant, the sector is not homogeneous, something sites such as Intelligent Giving don't seem to take into account. Many more charities are striving to be more transparent on their websites and in their annual reviews.

The move to greater transparency is an evolution and will take time, but it is happening. Every one of the top 20 fundraising charities in the UK has joined the ImpACT Coalition, committing themselves to communicating with clarity and openness. Crude comparisons are simply not fair and do not aid this process.

Topics:
Fundraising

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