Sarah Atkinson – Have your say on the annual return for charities

November 14, 2017 at 09:30

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission explains why all charities should take part in their consultation on the Annual Return. 

The Charity Commission is running a consultation for next year’s annual return, which includes key financial and other information that we as a regulator collect about charities – and this is your opportunity to help shape the future of this collection.

We are reviewing the key information that we collect and display from charities, the changes we’re proposing are the most significant since 2013 and are intended to reduce the amount of information that smaller charities have to supply each year and target more detailed questions tailored to each charity. This is your opportunity to have your say on this next iteration.

The annual return is a key regulatory tool that is used for two main purposes; it enables the Commission to collect information about charities that it can use to identify issues of concern, either in specific charities or areas of broader risk across the charity sector. It is also the source of much of the information that is displayed on the Register of Charities – a key driver to allow the public and donors to find out more information about charities.

Our intention is to shift to a more dynamic annual return, that is better targeted and easier for charities to use – those charities that are smaller and have more simple operating structures will answer fewer questions, whereas those that are larger and more complex will be required to answer more. These changes will help ensure that the questions reflect the priority risk areas and help us tackle new regulatory risks as they emerge, we also hope they will strengthen the sector’s accountability and provide information that the public and others expect to be able to see.

For each new question we’ve considered how the information will help meet a regulatory aim however, we’re also mindful of not to creating an additional burden on charities.

Ensuring we collect the right information, in a way that is simple for charities to understand, is absolutely vital. Whilst this information is an essential regulatory tool for the Commission, this is also the main way that the charity register is populated – and with almost 12 million views of the public register per year, and many organisations across the sector relying on its accurate data – this is an essential tool for more than just the regulator.

We believe the changes that are proposed will help strengthen our ability to regulate charities and improve public trust and confidence. The improved digital service being offered will also result in a much easier service to use that is based on the needs of charities. The voice of charities and their umbrella bodies will be important to inform our approach and we look forward to engaging widely and constructively in the coming weeks.

The annual return is such a key tool and this is a great opportunity to improve it – and we would appreciate any help you can give us to engage widely with the sector. We will be involving charities in different ways alongside the formal consultation responses, for example through user-testing and roundtables.

You can complete the consultation in the 2018 annual return here which closes on the 24 November and we look forward to hearing your views.

CFG is also running a survey for charities on the Annual Return which you can fill in online.