Three Tools to Help You Explore Charity Commission Data
6 September 2018
Data held by the Charity Commission is valuable information for anyone who wants to understand the charity sector. The Commission makes lots of the information about charities in England and Wales available online via its public register, ranging from who the trustees are and the number of staff, to where and how the charity is operating and its annual accounts. This kind of data allows the public to identify individual charities and better understand their work. Together with the 360Giving dataset, the information can also help us gain powerful insights into the sector and the different flows of money going to it.
The majority of this information about charities is also published on the Commission’s website; but the format of the data makes it hard to use. Luckily for us, three data experts have created digital tools that allow anyone to explore and analyse Charity Commision data quickly and easily for free. This blog post reviews each platform.
Dan Kwiatkowski (@dan_kwiat) built CharityBase, an open source tool for easy access to data held by the Charity Commission. Dan explains why he created CharityBase: “There’s plenty of public and freely available data about charities but it isn’t being used to its full potential. The lack of awareness about what information is available and how it can be used is understandable; data sources are fragmented and often in formats which aren’t accessible to most users.
A few groups, in particular, are missing out: researchers who want a data-driven approach to their analysis of the sector; donors who want to discover charities aligned with their interests; and developers of online services who want to pull charity data into their websites.”
CharityBase aims to help these groups use charity data more effectively. It’s an open source project comprised of three parts:
- A database bringing together all public information on charities registered in England and Wales cleaned up and updated monthly.
- A web platform for searching, filtering and browsing the database with the option of downloading results for offline analysis. There are also some visualisations of charitable grants thanks to funders publishing to the 360Giving Standard.
- An API (Application Programming Interface) which makes it easy to pull data into your own website. The API enables others to create services involving charity data. There are lots of potential applications of the API that we look forward to seeing. Several donations and volunteering apps are already using it to power their charity search functionality.
Dan believes that the more people start consuming data from CharityBase and as the Commission continues to develop its online services, charities will become more incentivised to provide detailed information about their work and to keep their records up to date. “The hope is that this will improve data quality and transparency in the sector – helping researchers understand it and enabling the creation of useful charitable services.”
Olly Benson (@ollybenson), former Operations Director for volunteering database Do-it.org, and now working at the NHS, is building CharityData. It provides a way of doing more in-depth searching of the Commission’s Register of Charities. Olly noted that “There is such a rich amount of information in the Register, but only a fraction of it is exposed on the Commission’s website, and it’s difficult to search for.”
Highlights of the site include being able to do geo-location searching, so you can find all the charities in a local area; as well as search by trustees, income and the date the charity was registered. One additional feature is that the gender of every trustee is provided, so users can see how gender-diverse a charity’s board is. The entire site is developed using an API, so others can and do make use of the data. One example of this is the Small Charity Roulette, which was launched to coincide with Small Charities Week in June 2018.
Find That Charity
David Kane (@kanedr), a data analyst specialising in the charity sector, has created Find That Charity, a website listing all the registered charities in the UK. The platform aims to do one thing really well – find the official record for a charity when you search for it by name. The search engine looks at charities registered in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and knows when a charity is registered in England and Wales and Scotland at the same time. It also knows the official and trading names of charities – so a search for “Comic Relief” will find “Charity Projects” – the registered name of Comic Relief.
The hidden power of Find That Charity happens when you use it on a list of charities. When you use the platform to match each charity to its official record you can then add postcodes, financial details, etc – expanding what you can do with your data. David has created a simple tutorial to help you to enrich your charity data.
All of these website have been created on a voluntary basis and are free to use. We encourage you to support their ongoing development by using them, sharing your feedback on how useful you found them for your work and encouraging others to do the same.