Changes to the annual return for charities and disclosing campaigning costs – NCVO comment

Commenting on the Charity Commission’s announcement of changes to the annual return for charities , including its decision to return next year to the question of requiring charities to publish their expenditure on ‘campaigning activities’, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said:

'I'm pleased the Commission have listened to our concerns about this proposal. We are in favour of transparency and we have done much to advocate greater transparency ourselves, for example on executive pay, but their proposal as it stood was unworkable.

'There would be no logic to putting forward the same proposal in a year's time. Trying to put a meaningful single figure on campaigning will be as impossible then as it is now.

'In accounting for and communicating all areas of charities' operations, we should look to more holistic measures that can be genuinely illuminating and aid rather than hamper public understanding.

'While I welcome moves towards genuine transparency, it is curious to single out this area of spending exclusively. The Commission will need to proceed carefully in order to avoid giving the impression that they are doing the bidding of a handful of unjustified critics of charity campaigning.'

Notes

NCVO objected to the proposal to force charities to disclose their expenditure on ‘campaigning activities’ on the grounds that it was not possible to put a single figure on costs that may be considered ‘campaigning activities’. For example, it was unclear whether or how fundraising materials which carried a campaign message would be accounted for. Given the very many things that could be considered to represent campaigning, coming to a meaningful single figure which adequately represents a charity’s campaigning work is not possible. A regulatory requirement to do so would create significant bureaucratic burden for charities. We also do not believe it is a regulatory matter – provided they are acting lawfully, it is for charities and their supporters to decide what level and type of spending is appropriate.

Read NCVO's response to the Charity Commission's consultation on the annual return.

For further background on our position, read Karl Wilding’s blog explaining our response to the proposals.

NCVO's inquiry into senior executive pay in charities , which concluded earlier this year, recommended that charities voluntarily publish not only the remuneration of their senior staff, but also an explanation of how the charity goes about determining remuneration levels. We believe such narrative detail, rather than figures alone, is important to help donors and other stakeholders gain a full understanding of the charity's approach to remuneration.

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