Benefacts has updated and improved the public Register of Charities
Regular users of the search function on the website of the Irish Charities Regulator will have noticed a distinct enhancement in the appearance and accessibility of the data presented. This is because the Regulator asked Benefacts to provide a web service that exploits the web design and search functionality we already developed for nonprofit listings on our own website.
Under the Charities Act 2009, the Regulator is obliged to establish and maintain a public register of charitable organisations operating in Ireland. The enhanced online register went live in October 2017 allowing people to search for charities based on their name, CHY number or Charities Regulator number, and the information is presented in a more user-friendly way. In addition, charity searches can now be further refined by facet – geographic location, organisation type, charitable purpose or registration type.
Visitors to the Charities Regulator’s website are offered a seamless link to benefacts.ie if they want to access additional materials or check the status of charities with other regulators – for example to get a copy of the financial statements which incorporated charities file with the Companies Registration Office, to see whether a charity is funded under S.38 or S.39 of the Health Act or to check the status of a charity’s capacity to receive tax benefits from donations, awarded by Revenue.
Discrepancies between data on different websites
Sharp-eyed users of both websites have already spotted a couple of anomalies. The Register of Charities only publishes data furnished by charities to their regulator in fulfilment of their obligations under the Charities Act. Besides a statement of their charitable purposes and activities, this includes an indicative number of employees and volunteers and a summary of their financial income and expenditure. Where a charity is also incorporated as a company – and just under 4,500 are – this information, together with a good deal more, is to be found in their latest set of financial statements which is where Benefacts secures this information. For example, using the forms provided for charity disclosures, a charity might have told the regulator that it has fewer than ten employees, but in its financial statements it has published the exact figure.
Better disclosure by charities
Another source of discrepancy between benefacts.ie and the Register of Charities could arise from the timeliness with which charities file their returns. Companies – including charity companies – that are tardy in filing their returns are fined by the Companies Registration Office. In recent days, it has emerged that more than 25% of charities are late in filing their annual returns and the Charities Regulator has discussed stepping up the process to drive compliance with the reporting requirements for charities.
Work on the enhanced online charities register was undertaken by Benefacts under the terms of a funding agreement with Government, the Ireland Funds and the Atlantic Philanthropies designed to exploit digital technologies to make the work of all Irish nonprofits – including charities - more transparent and more accessible.