Charities must be more transparent

National charities must be more transparent to fundraisers says TheGivingMachine's survey


Social enterprise founder says local charities should call on their personable appeal to ensure they do not miss out on funding


Many people lose trust in the large-scale charities they raise money for if they are not informed of how the money they donate is benefiting, according to a 'Giving Opinions' survey conducted by social enterprise TheGivingMachine.


  • 77% of respondents would prefer to support a local charity over a national charity working for the same cause
  • 95% want to be kept informed by charities of how donations are spent
  • Charities should take advantage of social media to keep in contact with their supporters


The public survey asked users how important it was for charities to be transparent about how they spend donations, with 95% of respondents believing it to be either somewhat or very important to be kept informed. The relationship fundraisers have with the charities they support is also considered to be important, as 78% of those they asked donate to at least some of the charities they support because of personal experience. 


Part of the requirements of becoming a charity is that the public must be given accessible information about their work as part of their accountability and transparency processes, and in the past few years, best practice procedures have been set up to ensure that this is improved.  Online registers such as one launched by the Charity Commission1 in 2008 allow the public to view financial accounts in order to ensure trust between the charity and the public is maintained.


But Richard Morris, founder of TheGivingMachine believes that the personable trait local charities have is what appeals to those that support them. "We have in-built desires to do things that bring about feelings of belonging and contribution - this is reflected in the millions of people who join networking sites, run and attend day centres and face-to-face or online forum self help groups," says Richard. "Charities are no different, and our survey results have supported this theory. Charities with personable appeal have a unique selling point that can persuade someone to support a cause whose benefits are tangible and easy to get involved with."


When asked if respondents would prefer to donate to local or national charities for the same cause, 77% said they would prefer to support local causes, and many respondents felt the same way when asked why. "I've stopped giving to big national charities as I feel like I don't know where my money actually goes," one said. "I now give to local charities that work in the same field as I can visit them as often as I like and they can give me a precise update as to what my money goes towards." Another respondent said, "I trust local charities more and feel these beneficiaries would be more personable and easy to get involved with."


A tangible community spirit was also present when contributors were asked about local vs. national charity support. "I feel that the money donated would be spent on the cause rather than on maintaining big business," said one participant.  "We all think of the big charities due to huge brand awareness through extensive marketing campaigns - it is much harder for a smaller charity to get the same exposure."


"I think it's beneficial for the community in general; we can see the changes, get more involved and become more aware about charities in general." said another contributor.


However, although local charities may be able to have a more localised and tangible impact, some of the people TheGivingMachine asked prefer to support the more large-scale beneficiaries. "I generally support the charity that is working for the widest long term benefit," explained one fundraiser. "Cancer Research UK researches cures for example, whereas a hospice provides local relief and support to those suffering. Both are amazing, but I choose to put my money towards prevention and cure."


According to Richard, there are sometimes misconceptions about how charities should spend the money donated to them.  "When it comes to charity expenditure, there is often a public expectation that the smallest proportion of income should be spent on internal investment and rather should focus expenditure on the activities it runs as part of its mission," says Richard. "However, the reality is that investment in the company as a whole is always required if it is to make an increased impact. To ensure their current and potential supporters trust them it is therefore incredibly important for charities to be transparent about how the public's donations are spent."


Richard's founded social enterprise TheGivingMachine was developed as an online shopping portal that turns the commissions that retailers pay in return for online referrals into donations, which the shoppers can channel to charities of their choice. As an opportunity for 'free giving', Richard explains how the portal has kept the community focus that it began with and works with the most supported charities and schools to ensure that shoppers are kept informed of how the donations are making a difference. "Our 'free giving' technology means that charities and schools are given the opportunity to tap into free and regular funding, and they are keen to keep this going," explains Richard. Local and national charities are particularly good at using social media to inform their supporters of when they receive money from TheGivingMachine and how they are spending it, and we work closely with schools' PTAs who tell us exactly what school equipment has been bought as a direct result of the fundraising they have received through our site."


TheGivingMachine enables shoppers to nominate up to four charities to support, which means both local and national charities can be supported. "TheGivingMachine isn't just about how much money is raised for charity, but about a change in attitude," explains Richard. "We remove the financial barrier that might sometimes stop people from being able to support charities, and we hope that enterprises like ours continue to encourage society to become more inherently 'giving'.


"But in return for the support that online shoppers are now able to give on a regular basis, they want to be able to feel really connected and involved with the charities and the benefits they are providing. Whether it's through social media, e-newsletters or via dedicated fundraising teams, communication between the charity and the fundraiser is vital if a strong and long-lasting relationship is to be maintained."


Not-for-profit social enterprise TheGivingMachine currently hosts 1,700 retailer websites and has raised £800,000 for 8,000 charities and schools so far. To join for free as a Giver or a charity or for more information please visit


 Richard Morris-CEO


Disclaier: SEEE does not necessarily share the views contained in this blog