A User’s Guide to Australian Charity Data
8 November 2012 at 12:02 pm
The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) has released A User’s Guide to Australian Charity Data to support the use of data that will become available through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
The paper encourages users to think about the impact of their use of charity data on the charities they are trying to assess.
CSI’s Emma Tomkinson says the Guide is a reference document that raises examples and points of discussion.
“It does not set rules for charity use, but challenges users to think of exceptions to the rules they are creating.”
The paper has been developed in anticipation of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), which is developing a financial reporting framework that will take effect from the first financial year commencing on or after 1 July 2013.
“This framework will set out what information needs to be submitted to the ACNC by charities and, possibly, in time, other Not for Profit organisations.”
The ACNC “will register Not for Profits that are charities and establish a free, searchable register of charities. Through the register, anyone will be able to find out information about a charity they might want to donate money to or volunteer with” (ACNC Taskforce, 2012). Other interested parties will also be able to use the information for their purposes.”
The Introduction to the Guide says information on the sector is valuable to all stakeholders. Charities will be able to communicate their activities and share best practice. Funders will be able to access, collate and analyse this information to improve their impact. Policy makers at all levels of government and regulators will be able to base policy decisions on evidence collected. Researchers will be able to gain insight into the sector to support better practice for all stakeholders.
Tomkinson says having information on charities available from a single source and in a consistent format improves the effectiveness and efficiency of reporting.
“It might also allow more insights into the sector as a whole. However, the context within which organisations operate needs to be taken into account when interpreting information about charities.
“For example, creating a charity “risk rating” that rewards the stockpiling of increasingly large cash reserves seems to encourage stability, but does not encourage effective use of funds, so should be actively discouraged.
“However, looking at the cash reserves of an entity in context could be useful when evaluating the cash flow management of an organisation. Charities and the users of their data should prepare to meet an increase in both volume required and external access to charity information.
“This involves proactively publishing information to support constructive and accurate interpretation of data, such as this paper. It also involves building the capacity of data producers to present datasets and the ability of data users to access and contextually interpret these datasets to paint a fuller picture of the sector and its organisations.”