A few weeks ago, I heard some murmurings that the Charity Commission search function had had an update. Always eager to take a look around, my first reaction was that it was a facelift, but after a brief poke around I was delighted to discover that the Charity Commission had finally followed through on their promise to update the search function!
The new online register of charities now provides far greater details on a charity, including the ability to see at a glance whether a charity pays its Trustees, the level of higher-paid staff, the type of policies that a charity has in place, and also highlights where a charity has been subject to regulatory action.
The thing that perhaps I like the best is the improved search functionality. Whereas previously, you had to get a charity name pretty much spot on (or know the charity number) to get a positive result, there is now far more freedom in the search functionality, and considerably better options for filters (including registration dates, income levels, and classifications). There is also the location search which allows you to see all charities that operate within a certain local authority area or parliamentary constituency. Whilst this has its limitations (it clearly can’t show national or wide-ranging charities in every area they operate), this is a huge step forward in providing visibility to those charities that impact a local level.
As a bit of a data geek, I was delighted to see you can now also view datasets for the entire register, meaning you could view the entire set of published data available on the register if you can’t sleep one night!
So what does this mean for you? Well, firstly, it puts far more emphasis on those boxes that you complete as part of the Charity Commission annual return. Remember not quite knowing whether or not you had those policies but ticking the box anyway as it didn’t go anywhere?! Now it does! It puts the onus back on charities to understand what they are completing as the information is now publicly available.
This leads nicely onto my second point about what it means for you – transparency. For too long the Charity Commission has been accused of preaching about the importance of transparency for charities, all the while holding hugely beneficial information, but not making it publicly available. This new register, whilst aiding those who search for charity information, also makes that next step to holding charities to account for what they do and how they do it – and I for one welcome it with open arms.