In 2018 I became increasingly frustrated that most of the organisations that we were supporting had been referred through contacts. I decided to try and look proactively for effective charities and immediately discovered that it was almost impossible.
Search engines typically delivered large numbers of results and with such scant information that it was incredibly time consuming to sift through them. How could this be improved?
It seemed quite easy to improve the actual process of searching the Charities Commission database but that still left the problem of how to filter the results more quickly. That’s when I thought of how people might handle a similar situation in the investment world. If you lack the time and/or expertise to select stocks to buy then an alternative route is to look at where the smart money is going. What are the most highly regarded fund managers doing? In that world it can often be hard to uncover timely information because it may well affect the share price but in the philanthropic sphere that does not apply.
Since the creation of 360Giving anyone has been able to gain access to a growing bank of data about donations made by major grant makers like the National Lottery, Comic Relief, Esmee Fairbairn etc. What if we joined that data to the Charities Commission list so we could specify that a charity must have received a minimum level of backing from the professionals?
It was reasonably simple to make that happen and immediately searching became easier. We found great charities like City Harvest and Hubbub Foundation that we’d never even heard of previously.
Then we looked for ways to enrichen the data. CharityBase helps us to identify social media handles, logos and more insightful descriptions of activities. We also began to analyse the financial data, highlighting any areas that need investigation. The work continues and we hope that one day we can offer broader data on key executives and on how programmes actually run and impact data. There is still much to do to help people make better decisions about their giving.
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