News analysis: Comment

Two experts, Adrian Sargeant and Stephen Lee, give their views on Guidestar UK.

We read with great interest that £4m-£5m has now been pumped into the Guidestar initiative, including both public and donated funds. Are we alone in wondering why it is costing such a vast sum of money to create what is in essence a database with a web interface?

It would also be interesting to know what the problem was that this site was designed to address? Opening up access to data that was already in the public domain could hardly be described as a major contribution.

There are also concerns that the team behind Guidestar will now be compelled to charge for 'value-added' services, which might include analysis of charity performance and even comparative data.

We say might, because the detail of the service to be provided, what will be free and what will be charged for, seems yet to be decided - or, more accurately, released into the public domain.

There is unease within the sector about what form these value-added services might take and whether it will be necessary for Guidestar to offer a subscription to a service allowing individuals to compare between one or more organisations.

It is hard to see what else they might do with their data and it is equally hard to see how any comparison based on public accounts could be useful.

It is surely time for Guidestar to account for its use of public funds and to demonstrate that it will indeed bring value for money to the sector.

Adrian Sargeant, professor of non-profit marketing and fundraising, Bristol Business School, and Stephen Lee, director, Centre for Voluntary Sector Management, Henley Management College.

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