The Charities Register - Getting the big picture
Posted on 27 October 2016
Following on from Julia’s blog, Charity Reporting – The Bigger Picture, I thought it would be useful to illustrate the importance of the information charities provide to Charities Services and to the public through the Charities Register. You can access the register from our website (external link) and this post will explain how it can be used, who uses it, and will provide you with some helpful tips on how to search the register to make the most out of it.
The Charities Act 2005 requires registered charities to provide information to us and the public via the Charities Register. This register helps the public, funders and other users make better informed decisions about registered charities they may wish to support financially, volunteer for, or whose services they may wish to use. It also provides important information to the charitable sector itself, government and researchers, who may use the information to assist in making or influencing policy and strategic decisions.
The Charities Register makes it easy to:
- search for information about the services of particular registered charities;
- search for information about the charitable purposes of registered charities;
- find contact details of registered charities;
- find out where a registered charity operates, the sector in which it works, and who its beneficiaries are;
- find out how a registered charity is governed and who its officers are; and
- access financial, annual returns and other information about registered charities.
Sometimes we can withhold information from the Charities Register but only if it's in the public interest to do so. A request to withhold information is only granted in exceptional circumstances. For example, we would accept a request to withhold the physical address of a women’s refuge from the public register to protect the women accessing its services. We consider this request meets the public interest test as it helps to protect the health and safety of members of the public.
It’s also important to note that we don’t publish your charity’s officers' date of birth or home address details on the Charities Register.
Searching the Register
Let’s first look at the basic search (external link) function on the register. Here you can type the name of the charity you are involved in, or support, to see what’s displayed. This will show you the information we collect and display to the public. If any of the details have changed, you will have an opportunity to amend these when you complete your annual return. Alternatively, you can log into your account (external link) and update your details online through the “Update Details” function. If you notice a charity that you support has incorrect details or their details have changed, it’s worth contacting them to let them know to update their details.
Here are a few examples of simple ways the register can be used:
Ben wants to volunteer at a local animal charity but he has just moved to Dunedin and doesn’t know of any of the local charities.
Ben is able to do a search of the register by typing “Dunedin” into “Town/City” and selecting “Care / protection of animals” in the Sector and “Animals” as the beneficiary.
The search results bring back 41 results. He can then view the charities and contact the ones he is interested in volunteering for from the “Charity Details” tab.
Lizzie has been called at home by a volunteer claiming to be from a charity and requesting a donation. Lizzie hasn’t heard of the charity before and wants to double check the caller is from a legitimate charity.
Lizzie is able to do a search of the register by typing in the Charity Name or requesting the Registration number from the caller. She is then able to see if the charity is registered for added confidence. If she’s still unsure about the caller, she can contact the charity directly using the charity’s phone number or email address that appears on the Charity Details page of the Register.
Jo is thinking about donating to a charity called Development Africa (*fictitious name) that she has read about in the newspaper. The charity works on community development in poverty-stricken areas of Africa and has been active for six years. Jo is keen to see what the funds have been used for.
Jo does a search of the register and finds that Development Africa has been registered for six years. She is able to access the charity’s annual returns and financial statements from the “Annual Return” tab and see the income and expenditure of the charity and can see that all the charity’s annual returns are up to date.
For more detailed information and searches, we also offer an Advanced search (external link) function which includes all data published to the Charities Register. This function is designed for users wanting to do larger multiple searches of the register. It enables anyone to download data into a spread sheet to sort and analyse, this process requires a good understanding of Excel.
Keep an eye out for more information about the advanced features function of the register in future blog posts. In the meantime, you can read our ‘how-to’ guide available on our website.
It’s important to remember the register can be accessed by anyone who wants to find information on registered charities, and it’s a great tool for your charity and for the public, this is why it’s so important for your charity to keep us up to date with any changes. No matter how big or small, your charity’s details help build the big picture of the charitable sector.