Show me the money! The challenges in how charities present their financial information to the public

Show me the money! The challenges in how charities present their financial information to the public

How charities spend their money remains a key concern for current and potential donors. In this report we examine how a selected sample of UK charities present their key financial information to the general public, exploring both the content and form of this information. We find that it is clear charities are working hard to demonstrate how much they are achieving through the income they raise and how efficiently this is being done. However, there are a number of recurrent issues that are worth highlighting: 

  • Key financial information of interest to the public remains buried in technical reports
  • There is an urgent need to present fundraising figures in a fair yet externally consistent way 
  • Some charities are omitting fundraising altogether when talking about their expenditure 
  • Detail about administration costs and staff pay is rarely summarized and presented by charities 
  • SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice) is at the heart of many of the problems with the presentation of charity financial data 
  • The Charity Commission's website is currently hindering rather than helping, and probably lowers public trust in charities 


Submitted by Nick Kavanagh (not verified) on 18 Apr 2020


This piece of work is a helpful addition to the debate about charity transparency and clear reporting to stakeholders.
I do think that it could have pushed a little harder in some of the conclusions :-
* It talks about key information remaining buried inside technical reports. One of the authors of this report has in the past made a strong case for a 'key facts summary' and a number of charities now include a one or two page summary at the front of their reports. A strong push to have this automatically done would be helpful.
* The report helpfully highlights that fundraising costs are reported in a variety of ways. I agree with the call for consistency, which will require some breaking down in components, but care must be taken not to overcomplicate this.
*I am not sure the report gets to grips with what 'administration costs' are and how the publicate should be educated on this. They are clearly not the same as support costs and the distinction would need highlighting.
* The issues raised with the Chariuty Commission's website are very well made and need addressing.

You have raised some very important issues here - well done.

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