Intelligent giving? Putting transparency first

Alliance magazine

Intelligent Giving evaluates the transparency of the 500 best-known charities in England and Wales and lists the results on its website at

The resulting profiles are presented in a populist style to make them digestible to a wide audience, but the thinking behind the work is far from lightweight. Our transparency criteria derive from evidence-based research led by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Charity Commission in 2004, and our standards and processes have been refined over an 18-month period with a wide range of inputs.

The value of our work is threefold: first, and most importantly, we bring the subject of ‘giving’ to life; we make it interesting to an uninterested public. Second, we flag to the press and public that administration costs – the figure that the public invariably demands – is a misleading way to judge a charity. While we present transparency as a sign that a charity is confident and accountable, we stress that other factors are more important – especially the quality of the work. As such we defer to other evaluators including New Philanthropy Capital and feature their recommendations on our site. Lastly, by ranking some charities higher than others, and via strategically planned press releases, we apply gentle pressure on all charities to become more transparent.

We celebrate the evolving debate around impact assessment. However, if we are to leverage that methodology most usefully, we believe there remains a serious job of work to be done first around transparency and accountability (see letter on p4).

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