There are over 180,000 registered charities in the UK, and roughly 600,000 nonregistered communities contributing to our society when it comes to supporting vulnerable families, increasing the level of recycling, finding new homes for abandoned pets or giving equal opportunity to all young people to participate in arts education, just to name a few causes.
The diversity of the sector and the massive differences in size, operational models and causes make direct comparisons almost impossible. We say “almost”, as most people have their own criteria for evaluating and comparing. With regards to like-for-like comparison, this is easier, but not without quite a bit of effort. We at whatCharity wish to make things easier and whether you are comparing similar or very different types of charities, we suggest you to consider the following:
What should matter the most is the impact a charity is making. Comparing a single financial indicator of a charity does not provide information about the success rate of their work. In order to understand this, you need to start from “the change plan” of a charity, i.e. what challenges they overcome and how and what difference they are aiming to make.
There are goals and there are measured, proven impacts. However, it is sometimes hard to prove which change / impact was 100% delivered by the activity of a single charity and what the influence of other contributing factors were. Some projects and activities take years to deliver results and therefore declaring short-term results would make certain activities look pointless. “Audacious change maker” charities might in fact achieve a much bigger impact over a long time period if they persist on maintaining their strategy without worrying too much about immediate outcomes.
Sometimes it might be that a small change in legislation would do the trick and a lobbyist charity could therefore be the best choice for support. You should therefore consider what change you wish to be a part of and maybe think of your impact portfolio as an investment, where you make some short-term secured bets and alongside invest in more longer-term visions of change.
Measured charity impact is usually restricted to the cause and the “change plan” for the official beneficiaries. However, some charities do so much more and some have significant spill-over effects as a result of their core activities. A well-run charity shop chain for example does not only collect money for the charity´s stated cause, but potentially creates a vast number of development and job opportunities for young, disabled and unemployed people, and help them to gain important experience in order to thrive in the future. Some fundraising activities for grand research projects collect only few pounds to a pot of millions, but people who collected this money gained new experiences, social contacts and got exercise – all of which will enhance their health and expand their life expectations.
Every charity has a philosophy they act upon, declared in their mission statement. Their mission and related values guide their actions to tackle challenges in our society. These values stated should be reflected in everyday operations of the charity and be apparent to everyone, whether a volunteer, beneficiary or a member of public interested to hear more. In addition to obeying laws, regulations and industry standards, it is crucially important for charities to demonstrate ethical leadership, due to the basic nature of their work.
What fits for me?
A good charity should match your needs and motivations to take action. It is important that you believe in their views and chosen route to create the defined impact. Secondly, do you possess any of the resources to best support their journey whether it is money, expertise, time or goods? Do you have an access to services they could utilise? Or are you a professional in a position to donate your skills?
Your own needs are also an important consideration. If you wish to be updated on the achievements of a charity, you might want to check whether they conduct regular impact reporting and how active they are in terms of communication in general. If there are certain experiences you are seeking as a volunteer, ask the charity for a more specific description and whether there will be a certificate or a reference letter to be obtained.
Perhaps there is something else you are looking for as an additional benefit resulting from participating in charitable activity. Could the charity for example deliver you with networking opportunities, or participation in interesting events?
Find good charities on whatCharity
whatCharity.com charity profiles provide you with a compilation of data to gain an easy to compare overview. In addition to the basic charity details such as name and registration number, and the financials we extract from the Charity Commission database, there are two additional sources of data / information on the platform. Charities can complement their profiles with their story, mission, social impact as well as how you can be part of the change they are making with money, volunteering or goods. Our template to define the impact is based on internationally valid social impact logic model. If a charity cannot define their impact and goals clearly, they probably have not identified or measured them.
Furthermore, the reviews and ratings from beneficiaries and volunteers are an on-going body of evidence as to how the charity is run and progressing towards its goals.
The current whatCharity.com platform is a beta stage product. You will see much more to come in order to make your participation in charitable activities more efficient and exciting, as well as data and information related to those activities and impact more transparent.
We hope you find exciting new charities to work with and be part of the change you want to see in the world or your local community. Helping is only human after all.
The whatCharity team