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https://charitycommission.blog.gov.uk/2020/09/03/the-online-register-of-charities-new-and-improving/

The online register of charities – new and improving

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Public Trust, register

Screen shot of graphs and charts in the new Register of Charities.

Today (3 September 2020), the Commission has launched a new version of the online register of charities. This is an important milestone for us, and for charities: the register is a precious national asset, and the Commission has a responsibility to maintain and curate it in the public interest.

Recent months have shown us how strong the volunteering spirit of the British public is, and how deep generous support for charities runs in our society.

The register has an important role to play in informing and inspiring that generosity. And my principal ambition for the new register is that it is used, and used increasingly widely, in helping people make informed choices about the charities they want to support.

Decisions around charity are deeply personal. They are influenced by who we are, and where we come from, by the experiences we’ve had and those we’ve witnessed among our friends and families.

As people make those choices it is crucial that they know where to go to check whether an organisation that approaches them for support is a registered charity, with all the added protections that brings.

And beyond that, we know that almost all of us, regardless of our personal sympathies and areas of interest, share basic expectations of charities: we want charities to be open and transparent about the way they work, and how they spend their money.

That’s why our improved online register makes more information about individual charities available at the click of a button.

Clearer display on the register

Each charity’s register entry will now display more clearly whether the charity has been subject to regulatory action or is of ongoing concern. And following changes to the annual return, after an in-depth consultation, charities’ entries will now show how many staff members receive pay packages of £60,000 and above.

It also notes where trustees are remunerated for their work, and lists the policies a charity has in place, from safeguarding to conflicts of interest and investments.

The changes we have made are not just about the content of the register, but also about its look and feel. I want to ensure that people have a good experience when they are prompted to look up the details of an individual charity, or search for charities in their area. I want them to be able to find the information they came for easily and swiftly.

That’s why we’ve made the display more intuitive, and have placed the information people most often search for within ‘easy’ reach, either embedded in a charity’s landing page, or via a one-click menu of further options. We’ve also improved the search functions, so that they allow for people to isolate more precisely the specific information they are seeking.

And the new register display is also designed with the needs of charities in mind. Improved functionality makes it easier for trustees to access and update their own charity’s information with the Commission, in line with our commitment to improving the service we provide to charities. Those considering setting up a new charity, can also use the register to ensure that they are not duplicating the efforts of others.

The new data download and search functionality also enable researchers, reporters, commentators and elected representatives to scrutinise and analyse the register to find information that helps them in their work: whether that’s to spot trends the sector as whole, gather information about charities in a certain geographical area, or isolate charities by the work they do.

I would also like to see our data being used by others to help focus or target the valuable work of the charity sector where there is greatest need in society – including in terms of place.

Let us know what you think

The new register is not the end of a journey; while the new features are informed by user testing, survey feedback and consultation, there is always room for further improvement. I encourage the public, charities, and those with an interest in the sector, to use our new register, experiment with the new functionality, and let us know what is working, and what could be improved.

The register has a feedback form so you can tell us what you think.

Feedback will help us ensure that we continue to improve and finesse this important window onto charities, and the role they play in our society. We already have plans for further improvements, including to the APIs (Application Programme Interfaces) that allow web and app developers to take our transparency data and present it in new and useful ways.

As we look ahead during these uncertain times, the vital, two-way relationship between charities and the public will come into sharper focus. Charities will rely on continued public generosity and support to carry out their work, just as society generally, and many of us individually, may rely on the on the good work of charities.

To function, that relationship must be built on trust, accountability, and transparency.  Our improved online register is designed to strengthen all three.

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32 comments

  1. Comment by peter walker posted on

    All we need now is a simplification of the small charities access and reporting requirements for HMRC and Companies House.

    Reply
  2. Comment by Mark Katz posted on

    We used to be able to call up the page of a charity (by issuing a short URL containing the charity number) from within our programs to check on any charity to whom we wished to donate money.

    Is this still possible?

    Reply
  3. Comment by Dave posted on

    Very nice register. Massive improvement to the previous.

    Reply
  4. Comment by vicky gregory-thorpe posted on

    Do you have any timescales on when this information might be available via your API?

    Reply
  5. Comment by Fiona Gardner posted on

    The new URLs for each organisation is now extremely long and complex with different formatting so makes it impossible to use for a one click link from our CRM into the relevant organisation as we could do previously. Not at all happy with the new format. I'm sure I won't be the only Charity or relevant organisation effected by this.

    Reply
  6. Comment by Pam D. posted on

    The search system leaves a lot to be desired: as a member of the public I wanted to see whether "John's Campaign" was a registered charity. It's pretty well impossible to do so, as the search "John's Campaign" seems to be implemented as "John's OR Campaign". Just searching on "John's" gave a smaller number of hits, but of course every "St John's Scouts/School" was still there. Please provide a better search facility ("John's AND Campaign", or "John's Campaign" as two adjacent words). Thanks.

    Reply
    • Replies to Pam D.>

      Comment by Dr Augur Pearce posted on

      I second this criticism.

      Reply
  7. Comment by Valerie posted on

    Much more difficult to search for specific charities - the result brings up all instances of each word in the charity title one is searching for.
    Once you have trawled through all the results to find the charity that you need the information on, any links to specific charities placed in an information document just take you back to the search page rather than the specific charity record
    Very frustrating and time consuming

    Reply
  8. Comment by Pam Davies posted on

    As an editor of Wikipedia I work on many articles about charities and like to be able to link to their Charities Commission record. Recent changes make this impossible. I have used another feedback form I found to ask about this at greater length, but having now managed to find this one am asking here too.

    How can we map from registration number to URL to provide links? At present the links in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Cancer_UK and in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodland_Trust work but not those in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_and_Cupid_(sculpture) or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Breast_Cancer. (In all cases the links are in the "External links" section). Can you help? If not, then your new register is offering a significantly worse service to the public, by making it impossible for Wikipedia to link smoothly to your content. Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Comment by Graham Paul Ivor Stevens posted on

    I was a previous contact from East Surrey Dial-a Ride in respect of a number of organisations.

    Due to health issues after 21 years as a Trustee I need to resign as a Trustee and I am finding it diffiicult to exticate myself from my Charitable work for East Surrey Dial-a-Ride (yes I am sure you regard me as a mug). Is there anyway out from this situation or are all Trustees of Charities locked in forever? If there is a way out can you tell me about as suppliers make it difficult/impossible to change contact details (even the Governmement Gateway & Statutory Pensions website). I feel I am have been given a life sentence by Charity Law and that you should make this clear.

    If Trustees cannot avoid future responsibilities (financial or administrative) by a Charity they have left, please can you make it clear on your literature.

    Graham Stevenes

    Reply
  10. Comment by Calice posted on

    Why does the commission not accept application for small charity that has less than 5000 as income? How does it expect a young charity willing to register to provide this amount in it bank account?
    Is there anyway a young charity with 300 pound of income to get registered?
    Regards. Calice.

    Reply
    • Replies to Calice>

      Comment by Deb posted on

      Hi Calice

      Thank you for your query

      I have included a link to our guidance CC21b ‘How to register your charity’:

      https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-register-your-charity-cc21b

      This explains that if annual income is less than £5k we will only consider applications in exceptional circumstances. However, this only applies to non-CIOs. There is no minimum income requirement for a CIO.

      There are a number of reasons why we have a £5k threshold. Mainly however, we need to be satisfied that a charity is financially viable and able to operate accordingly, before entering it onto the Public Register of charities.

      Once registered, there are a number of administrative requirements a charity will face (including annual reporting requirements). This is not an insignificant requirement of registered charities, so we need to be certain they have the financial foundations and stability to enable them to operate in accordance with the purpose for which they have been established.

      If your charity is based in England and Wales, isn’t a CIO, and doesn’t have an annual income of less than £5,000, you can still apply to HM Revenue and Customs for recognition as a charity to get charity tax breaks and claim gift aid. I have included a link here for you to read more: https://www.gov.uk/charities-and-tax/get-recognition

      I hope this is helpful

      Kind regards

      Debbie

      Reply
  11. Comment by Suzanne posted on

    The improvement to the register are to be commended, transparency and access to information are a key part of the public being able to place their trust in organisations.

    However, I strongly disagree with the regulatory warning that is appearing for some in the banner at the top of the entry on the register.

    Quoting from the blog post : "Each charity’s register entry will now display more clearly whether the charity has been subject to regulatory action or is of ongoing concern."

    There is a big difference between an organisation that has been subject, where that inquiry is closed and settled to everyone's satisfaction and the Commission agrees they should and can operate, and one that has ongoing issues or is in a current inquiry. And especially one where the Commission has had to install management to oversee the Charity.

    It feels as though the Commission has dealt with this in a rather simplified way. It would be very straightforward to include a tab on the righthand side that covers CC regulatory issues. But to have any organisation who has ever had a a issue with a red triangled exclamation at the top of the page is detrimental and displays little understanding on the part of the Commission to those organisations who do go through difficult times but with intent fully in tact. I would suggest this is reviewed in haste.

    Reply
  12. Comment by Steven Turner posted on

    I'm probably not in the right area, but can you tell me if Unincorporated Bodies, Charitable Trusts and Charitable Incorporated Organisations can appoint/elect Trustees from outside of the UK. I am already aware that Charitable Companies can.

    Regards

    Steve

    Reply
  13. Comment by Graham Stevens posted on

    Thank you for your reply to my comment on leaving as a Trustee of a Charity.

    My main problem is extricating myself as a contact from various organisaions which up to now have regarded me as the contact person for the Charity I represented. Examples are that our personal email address is the charity's log-on. I am sure you feel this is not your problem and is a private matter between myself and the provider of the Charity's telephone provider etc. At this point I should mention that my partner was the treasurer of another charity and she seems helpless in her attempt to get the Charity's bank (Santander) to remove her from their contact list for the Charity she was trying to support. Your data should make it clear that if you give your personal information as a Trustee of a Charity then you will be pestered for the rest of your life.

    Reply
  14. Comment by Matt posted on

    The new register looks great!

    Do you have a timeframe for the API to be released?

    This would be very useful for a new web application we are developing.

    If you have an API beta programme we would also be happy to be a part of that.

    Reply
  15. Comment by RB posted on

    I cannot see charity accounts on the records i have looked at today. This is essential research in preparing grant applications. Please remedy as soon as possible. Thanks.

    Reply
  16. Comment by Phil B posted on

    Thank you for the update on the new register.

    Are the submission dates for the next annual return still available? I can not seem to find them on any of the sections without logging in.

    Reply
    • Replies to Phil B>

      Comment by Deb posted on

      Hi Phil, a charity has 10 months from their financial year end to submit an annual return – so if someone wants to know when the next one is due, they can look at the overview page or the accounts and annual return page where the charity’s financial year end is noted. For example, if a charity’s financial year end is 31 March, the charity has until 31 January to submit. Kind regards, Debbie.

      Reply
  17. Comment by Andrew C posted on

    Is it no longer possible to read the annual return documents submitted by a charity? I can no longer find the documents in the new system.

    Reply
  18. Comment by Timothy Nunns posted on

    The annual report and accounts are available for some charities but not for others. Please - for all charities where you have this information - make it available on-line: for many users of the Commission's database, this is the most important information about the charity we are researching.

    Reply

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