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This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2017 Conservative government

Why the Charity Commission is going digital

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Strategy

78% of adults in the UK now use the internet every day, and over half - 56% - use the internet for banking. The internet has changed the way we interact and is a core part of everyday life for most of us. That is why the Commission is going digital.

We want to use the internet to become more responsive, more accessible and communicate directly with trustees.

The Commission is already putting more of our services online in a way that is better focussed on the customer, like our new registration service. Eventually each charity will have its own self-service portal where it can update its own information. We also hope to communicate better online using different tools such as live-streaming, video and webinars.

What will this mean for charities, for their regulation, and the public?

1) Charities will be able to self-serve on more issues and get a faster service from us when required

Charities will register and manage their affairs digitally, just as they already do with the annual return. In future, charities will be able to change their names, update trustee details and much more through a single log in, often without any intervention from the Commission as our systems will have the right checks and balances built in. This makes for a much better customer experience, freeing up charities to get on and do what they do best. We will still provide assistance when people run into difficulties.

It also means we will have better, up-to-date data on charities.

2) We will reach more trustees and charities with the information they need to know

We know that a lot of trustees still don’t know enough about their duties, and that not enough are aware of the guidance that is relevant to them and that will help them fulfil their duties.

We want to use our data in a more sophisticated manner to get through to trustees with the information they need. For example new trustees should get emailed The Essential Trustee when they first become trustees so they know what their duties are and are able to govern charities effectively. And trustees should get notifications when our guidance changes.

Digital communication with charities should also help us reach far more charities and trustees than before, whether that’s through live-streaming events, as we did for the first time last month at our public meeting in Southampton or using video to communicate key points to charities in a different way.

All in all, we will be adopting a more nuanced and targeted method of communicating with what is a large and diverse sector – providing the information that you need to know.

3) We will open our information to the public

In a digital age, accountability and transparency are paramount. We plan to make more information about charities public over the next few years, and more searchable, making it easier for the public to find out about the charities they support. It may also help third parties to develop apps or information services for charities or the public to make use of data they find interesting.

4) We will concentrate on the work the public values

More streamlined, automated digital processes on our low risk work will take our people out of routine work. Instead, they will be able to concentrate on the more complicated work that needs the attention of our expert staff. This will be work such as monitoring charities in difficulty, using our powers in difficult cases or complex registration cases. This is the work the public expects us to do well and will ensure more resource can go towards it.

We’re part of the way through a journey to deliver a digitally focussed Commission that meets the needs of charities. Keep us posted with your thoughts and ideas of things you would like to see and how we can do it better.

So what would we like you to do now? If you’re a charity trustee, make sure you’ve given us your email so you can get updates from us four times a year, and watch this space for more!

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  1. Comment by P F Vincent posted on

    With reference to point 2, I think consideration needs to be given to how you can communicate with new Trustees of Trusts which are Excepted from Registration, and therefore do not advise you of changes in their Trustees.

    • Replies to P F Vincent>

      Comment by luciagraves posted on

      Hi, thanks for the comment.

      At the moment you can sign up to alerts here if you are from one of those excepted from registration charities. I'd be interested to hear whether this is about right, or whether you want less information, for example to be able to get just our quarterly CC newsletter which you can find on our website.

      • Replies to luciagraves>

        Comment by P F Vincent posted on

        I have been signed up to the alerts for a few years, since I happened to become aware of them (a lot of which are interesting, but most are not particularly relevant to me). However, I don't think any of the other Church Council members are. A lot of Church Council members tend to overlook the fact that they are Trustees, and just consider that they are running the Church.
        Perhaps you could get the national church organisations to put out more frequent links to your alerts, particularly to new Trustees, and also give an option to only sign up to a more limited set of information rather than the emails I get most days.

  2. Comment by Spiro Ozer posted on

    I'm not clear why we have to log onto our password-protected registration page just to receive general information about the commission's activities. It surely can't be secret. I don't have the password anyway, since it's our secretary's job to update our details, not mine. Also there are lots of other people who are not trustees who might want to receive the updates, for example journalists. Why not just let anyone subscribe?

  3. Comment by Vince Crosby posted on

    This is good but trustees need to get answers quickly so organisations need a quicker response from CC I always keep our page updated and make sure we have the appropriate information to hand however we sometimes get issues that we need to ask for clarification this at the moment takes time.

  4. Comment by Rodher Neal posted on

    I have a charity which is using this item as a way of avoiding the inspection of their accounting books,cheque counterfoils day books etc at the AGM. Is this really what the CC intend to happen through the digital application?

  5. Comment by Rodger Neal posted on

    It really is quite straight forward. There is a requirement for all Financial records ro be available for inspection each AGM. That includes the cheque book stubs. If, as this Charity maintain, all financial records are available on the web and NOT physically at the AGM and If the password is not given for access through your website, how are you CC going to ensure that the right of an individual, on application to the Secretary of a registered charity, to view those documents is maintained in the future. How are you CC going to ensure a Registered Charities with reducing Charinco Assets of £20,000.00 and income of less than £5,000 who do not have to submit any audited accounts to you are not mismanaged. Scrutiny under your scheme is limited to those with the password only. That is essentially the scenario of other comments above, and my scenario is the reality happening next week I. E if you want to see the information it's on the web. It probably is, have you CC got the password because I haven't and I am not being given it.

  6. Comment by Rachel Rank posted on

    With regards to point 3 - "We wilI open our information to the public" - it would be interesting to learn how the CC plans to approach this. The priority is to maximise the amount of open, comparable information that is made available whilst minimising the effort required to do this. Standardising reporting formats could help meet this goal, e.g. does some of the information required by the CC and Companies House overlap and can this be combined so it only needs to be submitted once but can be used by both agencies? Open data standards have a role to play here, and I encourage you to look at the work of 360Giving in relation to this. There may also be interesting lessons to learn from other countries, e.g. Canada, where information on each individual grants provided/received is required and this is all made public.

  7. Comment by c willing posted on

    I have just tried to make our annual return on you new page AR16 & it said this page not available
    ,, how can I make my return , never a problem in previous years ,
    the phrase if its not broke why fix it.. comes to mind
    Chris torpoint bowling club

  8. Comment by Lucy McCarthy posted on

    I have been waiting for three months to receive a decision from the charoty commission, even though on your website you cite a 30 day timeframe for responses! I understand why there are delays but i submitted a good quality application and i don't think three months (with only one email after two months for additional information) is acceptable. If it takes this long (or longer) to process an application this should be made clear by the Charity Commission so new registrations can be prepared for the wait.

  9. Comment by John Roebuck posted on

    I am not fully digital as yet so would like the address of 'Charity Commission For England and Wales' so that send the completed form.

    John Roebuck.

    • Replies to John Roebuck>

      Comment by katebell posted on

      Hi there, I have edited your comment to remove your address as all comments on this blog are made public. You can send information via post to us at Charity Commission, PO Box 211, Bootle, L20 7YX