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It is high time the charity sector was subdivided

2 May, 2013 - 09:27 -- World Land Trust

World Land Trust has entered the list of top 3000 charities, according to Caritas Data’s recently published Top 3000 Charities 2013 (21st Edition).

Caritas sent me a free copy of the summary edition (the full edition is on sale for £295), which has details of some aspects of the top 150 charities (‘top’ as defined by analysis of charity income, expenditure and funds).

However useful some may find this document, I find it pretty useless, as so much of it is taken up with comparing apples with pears, or rather apples with electric hairdryers.

Put simply, what on earth does World Land Trust have in common with Cancer UK, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the Church of Scotland, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Arts Council, the British Museum, the British Film Institute, or even the Natural History Museum or Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew?

It is high time that the charity sector was subdivided.

Health trusts, public museums, public schools, and churches surely deserve to have separate categories. As do military charities and sports charities. I could even make a case for animal welfare charities having more in common with hospitals than wildlife and environmental charities, but that is perhaps a step too far.

One feature apparent from Top 3000 Charities 2013 is that none of the corporate donors to WLT donating over £60,000 a year are listed, making me question the reliability of the data.

But what is surprising is the list of donors that gave the most.

Top of the list were AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline which between them donated £1,024,000,000 (down from £1,472,000,000 last year). I wonder how much of this charitable giving was for research or supporting institutions from which they would benefit?

More interesting is the fact that only 65 corporations donated more than £1 million to charity in 2012 and only 25 donated more than £10 million. Considering the sizes of the bonus pay-outs to top executives, the boards of some of these corporations would do well to consider their corporate social responsibility policies - and certainly make significantly greater donations to charity. 

Comments

It's a real sign of the times that the metrics of success for charities in this "Top 3000" are income, expenditure and funds, rather than outcomes, achievements and sustainability. Whatever is on your balance sheet says very little about your merits as a charity organisation.

Submitted by John A Burton on

Totally agree, and it is a point that needs emphasising. However, when it come to independent auditors, how can they do this?

Submitted by Christina Ballinger on

One approach to measuring the success of a charity in terms other than financial is via Social Accounting.

Social Accounting is a method of accounting for social and environmental performance, as well financial performance, and the practice is becoming increasingly widespread in the third sector.

For example, UK legislation (2005) relating to Community Interest Companies requires such companies to report annually on their community and social benefit.

The Social Audit Network has a register of independent auditors. Reporting criteria are rigorous and the process requires a comprehensive, organisation wide approach.

For more information, see http://www.socialauditnetwork.org.uk/getting-started/what-is-social-accounting-and-audit/

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