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About Charity Trends

About the data

Where does the data in this website come from?

The data that is available in the CAF Charity Trends search tool is supplied to CAF by the Charity Commission once a month. The Charity Commission gathers the information supplied by registered charities in England and Wales in their Annual Return, and provides a monthly update to CAF which includes the information for each charity’s latest return.

How many charities are available to search?

All registered charities in England and Wales are available to search. The total number of registered charities in England and Wales fluctuates slightly every month, as new charities enter the register of charities and others are removed. There are currently over 160,000 registered charities in England and Wales.

What information is included in the website?

All of the information in the website is taken from the Charity Commission’s Annual Return form. The form and guidance notes are available from the Charity Commission.

There are three parts to the Annual Return form, and the total income of the charity determines which parts of the form they must fill out, in any given year. The smallest charities with an income of £0 - £500,000 need only complete Part A which consists of providing:

  • A summary income and expenditure amount
  • Details of the financial year start and finish
  • Contact details
  • Trustee details
  • Area of operation
  • What the charity does
  • Who does the charity help
  • How does the charity operate

All charities with an income of £500,001 or more must complete Part A and Part B, which is the section which contains the most detailed questions on their finances. There is also a Part C, which is not included in the disk which CAF receives, which is the Summary Information Return (SIR) which only charities with incomes of £1,000,000 or more need complete.

Because not every registered charity is required to complete every field of information in the Annual Return form, it is therefore not possible to display all information for all charities as they are not all required to provide it. Other scenarios for the CAF Charity Trends search tool not displaying all results is that a field of information was optional and so was not completed by all charities, or the field of information was mandatory, but still was not completed by all charities.

What should I keep in mind when using the data?

The database that CAF uses to fuel the CAF Charity Trends search tool are complex to analyse, and there are many issues relating to the data that anyone using this website to understand the sector must understand.

  1. In some places, there is double or multiple counting in terms of some data. One example of this is the cause classifications where charities may state in their Annual Return which causes they work within, and they are able to indicate as many causes as they wish. This means that to apportion any financial data (e.g. total expenditure) to causes is impossible as charities are not required to state how much of their time or money they spend on each cause. More information on this topic is available from the Charity Links paper.
  2. Not all charities are required to fill out every field of information in the Annual Return; in addition, some fields are optional, and some charities do not fill out the fields that they should do. This means that in places there is not a complete picture of charity information available.

How are the totals and averages calculated in the search tool?

In steps two and three of the search tool, the software will calculate both the total and average of each column. The calculation includes only those charities that submitted a number, and so any charities with a ‘#’ symbol which indicates missing data will be excluded from the calculation. The calculation includes all charities in the research results up to a maximum of 1,000 charities, which is the maximum number which will be displayed in any search results.

Are the numbers on volunteers complete?

In the Annual Return form, it is optional for charities to disclose how many volunteers they had in their last financial year, and so not all charities do so. In addition, in 2009 the Charity Commission moved the question on volunteers from Part B (only for charities with an income of over £500k) to Part A (for all charities to complete) of the form, and has been temporarily available to CAF since then. We anticipate that this will be available on this website very soon.

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