Open Data: How you can learn more about charities

cabinet officeLast week the Cabinet Office announced plans to give members of the public the ability to access more data about charities, as part of the Government’s open data agenda. This will mean that information about how charities earn and spend their money will be available through the Cabinet Office and is designed to ensure that people can make more informed decisions about the causes they want to support.

The news comes as the Government continues to develop their open data agenda, and follows announcements that the Land Registry will publish data about prices paid for residential property, and that HM Revenue & Customs will be holding a public consultation this summer on releasing parts of the VAT register, which, it is hoped, will help small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their access to credit.

Explaining the roll-out of open data for charities, Cabinet Office Minister Rt Hon Francis Maude MP said:

“Data is transforming how we live and work. Public open data has a critical part of play in this transformation, allowing us to make more informed choices about how we run our lives. The data commitments we are announcing today will strengthen the hand of citizens in holding commercial and charitable organisations to account. They will also support growth and the creation of data-led businesses in the new information economy – helping the UK compete in the global race.”

At CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) we’re pleased that the Government is expanding it’s open data agenda to include charities. We think that giving people the opportunity to learn more about the charities that they support will help strengthen the bond between donors and charities, and help to dispel some of the myths that are perpetuated about the charity sector.

In fact, we run the Charity Trends website, which already provides free and user-friendly data about over 160,000 charities to the public. Our website uses data from charities’ annual returns, and is provided by the Charity Commission on a monthly basis so that we can give users the most up-to-date information.

To make it easy for people to find what they are looking for, our search tool is designed to allow users to search directly for a charity of their choice, or by using a number of search criteria to compare charities. For example, we allow users to search by the location of a charity, the mission that a charity is carrying out, how the charity operates and who the beneficiaries are. We also provide searchable data relating to a charity’s income and expenditure, in addition to information about the number of people employed by and volunteering for a charity.

In addition, Charity Trends provides a number of visual aids which have been designed in response to some of the most common questions we get asked at CAF. We’ve produced graphs on a range of topics including top 10 charities by voluntary income, total expenditure over time and number of charities by income band.

We also provide a number of publications that are available to be downloaded which are all developed to improve understanding of the charity sector. Many include a number of interesting and surprising statistics – did you know that there are 147 charities that are registered in England and Wales which operate in Antarctica?

It’s great that the Cabinet Office will be providing more data about charities from next year, but if you’re keen to learn a bit more about charities and how they operate why not visit the Charity Trends website and see what you can uncover? And tune in next week, when we’ll be bringing you 10 of the most surprising stats from our charity data.

Steve Clapperton

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