Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Last week NPC published an excellent report calling for charities to be more willing to publish evidence of their impact. The researchers write:
When surveyed, donors consistently say that the two most important factors in trusting charities are how the money is spent and what it achieves. For ‘informed donors’, annual reports, annual reviews, impact reports and charity websites will be their first port of call to find out what they want to know. If charities are not communicating their impact in these materials, donors will look elsewhere for those that are.
The report analyses the annual reports of 20 large charities (including Salvation Army) and shows how they largely fail to communicate the difference they have made to people's lives (their outcomes) - even though most are good at describing what they do (their outputs).

I have only one quibble with the report (there always has to be a quibble): while the researchers always name specific charities when they highlight 'examples of good practice', they couch criticism in general terms so that specific poor performers aren't identified.

Maybe they felt that naming and shaming organisations would be unfair since they were randomly chosen? Or that it would be pointless because people generally learn from good - not bad - practice?

But the mistake of this approach is to believe that organisations are willing to be transparent, if only they were shown how.

The truth is that charities choose to remain opaque because it is risky - in terms of both income and reputation - to tell the truth. If it were to name and shame, NPC would help rebalance the equation by making it more costly for charities to avoid publishing their outcomes.

PS Check out OpenCharities - hopefully the seed of a new platform for collaborating about charity outcomes.

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