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Registered Charities

Charities’ data FAQs

About charities’ data

Where does Charities Services get the data about charities from?

The data comes from the information provided by charities in their Registration applications and Annual Return forms.

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Does this information represent every charity in New Zealand?

No. The data comes from the 25,680 charities currently registered with Charities Services. This does not cover all charities, because being registered as a charity is voluntary, and some charities have chosen not to be registered with Charities Services. It also excludes non-profit organisations that aren't also registered as charities.

Are deregistered charities included in the data?

Yes. Deregistered charities will appear in any queries you carry out. Use 'Registration Status' to filter out either registered or deregistered charities if necessary.

Some information is not mandatory

Charities do not have to provide some information, such as their website, email address and phone numbers. Some fields may have a null value (i.e. they do not contain any data).

Some information can be withheld

Charities Services can withhold any or all data about a charity at their request, if it's in the public interest to do so. Where particular fields are withheld (for example a street address, or the name of an officer), then the data in the field is shown as 'null'.

Supporting documents

The publicly viewable Charities Register holds copies of charities' documents, such as their rules, financial statements and Officer certification forms. Usually these are PDFs. These documents are not available through Open Data (because the information from them cannot be searched or aggregated). However, you can link to any charity's Register summary page through a field in Open Data search results.

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Does Charities Services check each charity's data regularly for accuracy?

No. The data is exactly what charities supply to us. We encourage all registered charities to regularly check information held on the Charities Register summary page, and to update it if it is incorrect in any way. The data “belongs” to each charity, and they are responsible for providing accurate, up-to-date information to Charities Services. However, we do look for anomalies in the data supplied to us, and monitor charities’ Annual Returns; to be sure they continue to comply with the Charities Act, and their own rules.

Some of the information we provided on our charity's Annual Return or Registration form is not correct — how can we correct it?

If the change you want to make is minor — for example a typing or spelling error — you can call our free information line (0508 CHARITIES) and request the change over the phone.

If you think that any of your data is incorrect and want to change it (for example, income details or your rules), you will have to complete a Notification of changes form.

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About the Financial Data

How do financial years work for Annual Returns?

What financial year do charities use?

Charities choose their own financial year-end date, so registered charities’ financial years fall throughout the 12 months of the year. On average, 40% of charities report on a financial year that runs April — March, 25% use July — June, and 20% use the calendar year January — December. Charities can change their financial year if they wish to.

When do charities’ Annual Returns fall due?

Charities have six months after the end of their financial year (balance date) to file an Annual Return. For example, a charity that reports on a year ended in March must submit its Annual Return by the end of September.

Is it possible to see all donations received in a specific year? For example ‒2011?

Yes, you can limit your search results to only those Annual Returns with a particular financial year end. Bear in mind that this will give you a smaller subset of the published Returns.

Also, since charities have six months from their financial year end to submit a Return, you need to be sure you are reporting on a period that finished at least six months earlier.

For example, if you are interested in the 2010 calendar year, you would look at Returns with a financial year end greater than 1 January 2010, and less than 31 December 2010.

The December returns are not due to be filed with Charities Services until 30 June 2011, so if you search for dates before then you would get an incomplete picture.

Why is the number of Annual Returns fewer than the number of registered charities?

A charity's first Annual Return falls due between 12 months and nearly 24 months after they are registered. It depends on when they were registered and how that registration date relates to their financial year. Some newly-registered charities may not have had an Annual Return fall due during the period you specify, and some charities may be late filing their Annual Return (charities that fail to file their Annual Returns are deregistered) .

A number of charities that are registered as a group submit a consolidated Annual Return, on behalf of their member organisations. These groups have about 650 member charities between them. For this reason, there is an apparent “shortfall” of about 600 Returns.

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About the search categories

How are Sectors, Activities and Beneficiaries described?

When applying to register, charities are asked to choose a Main Sector, Main Activity and Main Beneficiary. To understand these in more detail, have a look at the Application for registration form.

As well as identifying their MAIN Sector/Activity/ Beneficiary, charities also select additional Activities/Sectors/Beneficiaries. Charities can operate in any or all Activities, Sectors and Beneficiaries.

There is no weighting or breakdown of resources allocated across Sectors, Activities or Beneficiaries. For example, a charity may have identified that they carry out four activities, but it is not possible to determine from the data how much of their total expenditure went towards each activity.

What does "Other" mean?

If a charity ticks "Other" for any of Sectors, Activities or Beneficiaries they can also specify what "Other" means.

In Open Data this text is included in the relevant field – for example, the Beneficiaries field might include "Other — Chinese youth".

Keep this in mind when constructing searches where one of these fields contains a word or two. For example, if searching where Sectors contains "health", results will include not only where someone ticked the "Health" box, but also where they ticked "Other" and stated something with the word "health" in it.

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Searching by location

Can I find out where a charity is located?

The key point to note here is the difference between Areas of Operation and precisely where a charity is physically located. For example, a charity may be physically based in Wellington but includes Hawkes Bay in the Area of Operation, because it provides services there.

Note: The address may not indicate the charity’s actual location

Addresses on the Charities Register are provided for legal correspondence. A charity may provide the address of a trustee company, lawyer or accountant for this purpose.

Searching under the address field

An organisation may operate nationally but may show its street address and postal address on the Charities Register for its administrative head office.

To give a typical example, a charity may have its head office in Christchurch but also have branch offices in Hamilton, Auckland, Tauranga and Rotorua. The address data cannot show this significant presence in the upper North Island.

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Privacy and data

Yes, it is legal for Charities Services to publish data collected for the purposes of the Charities Act 2005.

I want to withhold my charity's data — can you do this for me?

Yes, but only if it is in the public interest to do so. Charities can request that their details be withheld so that the public are prevented from seeing particular information.

See the Restricting information page for more details.

The Charities Act (Sections 22, 27, and 28) indicates that the Register isn't to be used to gather information about the sector. Isn't the open data project a breach of the Act?

No, the Open Data project isn't a breach of the Charities Act, nor is it a breach of the Privacy Act. We are of the view that all of the possible search functions of the open data project fall safely within the parameters laid out in the Act.

Is publishing this data safe? What if it gets into the wrong hands?

This data has always been available publicly and nothing new is being published. Charities Services is aware that commercial organisations may use the data to contact charities and try to sell them products and services, but our primary aim is freeing up the data we have. Third party organisations are still bound by anti- spam laws when they use data for commercial activities.

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Formats and results

I don't understand the results. Can you help me do a search or interpret the results for me?

No, we don't have staff available to help you search. The Advanced Search is for “advanced” users only. We suggest using the simpler “Search the Register” option if you are not an advanced user. If you want to learn more about .csv files or Excel software and spreadsheets, we encourage you to look at this information:

What is a .csv file?

See the Wikipedia entry on Comma-separated values.

How do I use Excel?

See Microsoft's Basic tasks in Excel 2010 help page.

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I did a search last week and the same search this week, but got different results. Why is that? What is going wrong?

Nothing is going wrong. The data is dynamic, which means as we receive and process notifications of change, or add or remove charities from the Register, the data is automatically updated. This is why your search results are likely to change from day to day.

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Why are search results only published in .csv format?

Comma Separated Value (.csv) files are one of the most widely recognised file formats in the world. We wanted to ensure that anyone could use the Advanced Search option, regardless of what Operating System or software they used.

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I don't use Excel, how I can access the data?

Most operating systems will be able to open a .csv file using other software.

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Can the search function provide me with charts and graphs instead of an excel sheet?

No. The data is only produced in a .csv file. Using Excel, you can convert your search results in to a graph or table.

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Publishing/using the data

I want to publish the search results/data for research purposes, or as part of a news media story — how can I check its accuracy before I publish?

Since the information in the data is supplied by the charities themselves we cannot take responsibility for the accuracy of the data. However, if you are planning to publish the results of your search, or use them for a major news story, we are happy to help look over the data for you.

We are familiar with most of our key statistics, so may be able to identify any anomalies. Also, for comparison, you may like to take a look at our Snapshot of the charitable sector (PDF, 1.2 MB).

What licensing convention are you using?

We are releasing the data under the NZ Creative Commons attribution (CC BY 3.0).

What API formats are available?

APIs are available in ATOM and JSON.

What authentication will be required?

No authentication is required by users – we want users to be able to access and use the data as freely as possible.

I am a commercial operator and want to download your whole dataset — can I?

Yes, any user can potentially download the entire data set.

I am a web/software/app developer and want technical documentation or a question answered, who can I ask?

Please email paul.stone@charities.govt.nz

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