Looking for the Lock - Where are your charities compliance documents?

The clock is ticking, and quickly. Once a visitor enters your website, you have less than one minute to showcase your charitable purpose and the impact you have on the community. Not only that, but the average user will read less than a quarter of the text you have on your site.

We believe that each of our members has a unique and worthy purpose that helps to impact the lives of everyone in Ireland and beyond. These purposes must be showcased to the general public in a clear and concise way that will in turn be attractive, and not overwhelming, to potential donors, volunteers, and the general public. But, in order to do this, an organisation must also face the facts and obstacles in front of them.

In an effort to further the progress of our organisational members towards the Triple Lock, we have recently explored each member’s website for governance documents and transparency information, including public compliance statements and financial reports. From this, we have gathered important information from our members that we believe can help guide them in a clear direction towards a more transparent future.

METHODOLOGY

We researched our Organisational Members and targeted the user experience of their websites. The goal was to determine how easy it is for a potential donor or member of the public to navigate to important governance and transparency documents, which included access to the Donor Charter, Annual Reports, Public Compliance Statement, and Feedback and Complaints Procedure, among others. This was completed by entering the website and navigating to the necessary webpages to find those documents.

DATA COLLECTED

  • Time spent on website: a stopwatch began when the website was fully loaded and ended when access to the aforementioned documents was found. The timer was paused if excessive load times took place or stopped if the documents could not be found within three minutes. Any site that took more than three minutes was considered an outlier and excluded from the data.
  • Number of clicks: a tally was kept as to the number of different webpages were visited during the session in order to find access to, not necessarily open, the aforementioned documents. If the stopwatch exceeded three minutes, no further clicks were accounted for.
  • Search utilized: If a search was necessary to find access to the document and a search bar was available, this was considered “yes.” If a search would’ve been necessary to find the access to the documents, but no such feature was available, this was considered “n/a.” If a search was not necessary to find access to the documents, this was considered “no.”

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Internet speed: the data could be different if explored with internet of a different bandwidth.
  • Our organisation understands what documents should be available to the donor and know generally where to find it on a charity’s website, whereas members of the public may have a more difficult time and may not know what to search for.

RESULTS

Significant findings from the data:

  • The majority of organisations required 4 clicks or more through their website to find transparency and governance documents.

  • The average time spent on an organisation's website was 61 seconds.

  • Only 8% of members fell into the desirable 20 second rule of finding public compliance statements.

WHAT TO DO

Avoid Information Overload

The average user will leave a webpage within 20 seconds, and the average person’s attention span lasts nearly eight seconds. Due to this, it is important to focus on drawing users in and guiding them to the information they want, rather than overwhelming with information. Too much text, as mentioned in the introduction, will not be absorbed by the reader. Not only that, but it can waste the precious few seconds you have to either keep the user on your website, or drive them away.

Simplify Your Design

The saying goes, “too much of anything is a bad thing.” This is very much true for website design. Too much text, too many visuals, too many links, all can lead to a stressed user that does not know what to do or where to go next on an organisation’s website. A charity should strive to do three things on their main page: draw a reader in and make it easy to navigate and learn more about them, convey their value proposition, and showcase their compliance with governance standards and financial transparency.

Be Transparent

This is absolutely critical for Charities, and much information on transparency can be found in our Charities 2037 Report. Not only this, but an organisation could see an increase in their donations by being more transparent. A report by Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research shows that charities can increase donations by being more transparent, specifically with their requests for donations. Another report by Giftcoin shows that consumers would be willing to give on average up to 49% more if a charity was more transparent with their finances.

In Ireland specifically, our Charities 2037 report found that over half (54%) feel they do not know what charities do with the money donated (the same proportion that don’t trust donations are used effectively) and the clear majority agree that transparency is not currently satisfactory for the public (74%). Consequently, a vast majority of key stakeholders, including staff, volunteers, and the general public, all think that charities have to be more transparent moving forward. This could be a huge help in stopping the stagnation of trust in the sector, as currently only 7% of those surveyed say they trust charities.

To put it simply, the public is begging for transparency, and the sector desperately needs it if trust is to increase. It is a snowball effect: if transparency increases, trust increases. If trust increases, confidence and donations increase. If donations increase, the impact on our community increases. It is a perpetual cycle of good and is why our membership exists—to actively help our members work towards the goal of transparency and good governance.

But it isn’t enough to have the information on a charity’s website. It must be organized, easy to access, and easy to read. Our Triple Lock Standard is a great tool that should be actively pursued by all members and displayed once it is achieved. That is only a start. Too many of our members have the information scattered throughout their website, making it too complex for users to find information. Having transparency and governance information in one easy-to-locate section on a charity’s website cuts down the time spent looking for this critical information, buying you more time to showcase your value proposition and increase donations. As an example, create an “Our Transparency” or "Our Governance" section that is easily visible on your website's landing page. Within that section develop easy-to-navigate subsections where a user can find information on financials, transparency, and governance documents.

SUMMARY

Many of our members have their public compliance information, but it is in too many different sections of their websites. We believe in a simpler, more transparent, and more standardized experience for users. It is time to think about reorganizing and bringing transparency to the forefront, because it is what the public is asking for. One shouldn’t have to ask, “Why is the same information found in so many different places if the charity is trying be more transparent?” It is a slippery slope that can lead to other questions: “Why doesn’t this charity have this information here? Do they not have the information or they trying to hide something?” We believe that a potential donor should be able to find the same information with the same amount of ease, no matter which charity they choose to explore.

By Logan Hall-Potvin, Intern from Champlain College

Charities' Guide To Better Cyber Security

Charities in Ireland face an increase in cybersecurity threats. Cybercrime incidents are increasing, and no-one is immune. Criminals have the means and the opportunity to target organisations for extortion, financial gain, or to steal valuable data. As the rate of attacks rises, so too are the costs to recover. As well as financial losses, a security incident could harm their reputation or set back their ability to deliver services.

Charities also face the challenge of complying with the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That is why BH Consulting has prepared this free guide to better security. Suitable for large and small charitable and non-profit groups, it contains 10 high-level, practical steps to address their most important security concerns and protect valuable data.

1.    Audit your information

  • Understand what information you store, and where you store it

2.    Define your organisational risk

  • This lets you prioritise what’s most important and protect it on that basis

3.    Think data, not devices

  • Build a plan that focuses on protecting information no matter what IT hardware it’s on. Use encryption to ensure your most important data is safe

4.    Back up data

  • Make regular copies of your information – ideally several times daily – and store it in a separate location

5.    Install security software

  • Protect your laptops, smartphones, tablets and servers with continually updated anti-malware software on every device

6.    Implement a firewall

  • This critical protection system guards against many common security threats – but it’s just one part of a good defence, not the only solution

7.     Patch regularly

  • Most attacks target existing weaknesses. Keep all IT hardware and software up to date – especially anti-malware and firewall but also operating systems and apps

8.     Use strong passwords

  • Choosing a strong passphrase once is better than changing a bad one every 90 days. Use a password manager and enable two-factor authentication for important user accounts

9.     Conduct staff training

  • Awareness training for all staff keeps security top of everyone’s minds. Repeat regularly to foster positive security behaviour and culture, and include everyone in the organisation

10.  Manage user accounts

  • Configure your systems to prevent staff from accessing information if they don’t need it to do their work.

Your information is valuable to criminals. More importantly, your donors and stakeholders have entrusted their data to your charity. That is why it is so important to protect it. The 10 steps listed above are the first stage in improving your protection controls. We also recommend that charities should prepare an incident response plan which they can implement if a data breach occurs.

More guidance can be got from these resources:

Cyber Security: Small Business Guide

https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/blog-post/cyber-security-small-business-guide

Data security guidance from the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner

https://www.dataprotection.ie/docs/Data-security-guidance/1091.htm

Guidelines on how to respond to security breaches

https://cert.societegenerale.com/en/publications.html

A call to action to auditors with Charity clients: Stop recommending abridged accounts

With a direct link between trust and transparency we want to get to the bottom of why some charity Trustees are choosing to file abridged accounts.

according to benefacts the numbers of charities choosing abridged accounts has jumped from 24% in 2016 to 32% in 2017. 

One of the three elements of the Charities Institute Ireland Triple Lock is a commitment to Charity SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice). Charity SORP is the gold standard of financial reporting because it requires a greater level of information and disclosure to funders, donors, beneficiaries and the general public. It includes a description of the principle risks the charity faces and how it manages them, it explains the policy for holding reserves and explains how it remunerates its executive team.

In the charity sector transparency and trust are inextricably linked. The charities who produce SORP accounts understand this. So, when a charity chooses to file abridged accounts they are doing the opposite, they are providing the minimum information required of them.

Over half  (53%) of Charities Institute Ireland members are already SORP compliant and the remainder are committed to adopting Charity SORP in the next 2 years.

The Benefacts article asks,why are we seeing an increase in abridged accounts when we know the public want more information? In our opinion one of the reasons is the advice charities are receiving from some auditors. We have had a number of charities tell us that their auditors are recommending they avoid Charity SORP on the grounds that it is costly, time consuming and not yet necessary (while SORP is mandatory for charities in Scotland, England and Wales it still remains optional here in Ireland).

it is time for auditors to stop giving clients a list of reasons why charities sorp isn’t necessary and start actively promoting it as the industry standard in financial reporting for their charity clients.

Charities Institute Ireland is compiling a register of auditors committed to Charities SORP for charity clients regardless of size and income. We will promote this list on our website.

For more information on SORP this is an interesting article

Governance principles for charity trustees - ICSA: The Governance Institute

I was delighted to be part of the panel discussion ‘Charity Leadership – From Good to Great’ at the recent Charities Institute Ireland’s annual conference and noted the parallel governance journey of UK and Irish charities. With the Governance Code for the Community, Voluntary and Charity Sector currently under review and in consultation, I take the opportunity to share with Irish charity trustees England and Wales’ elaboration of its Charity Governance Code launched in July.

Criticism of the 2010 version of the charity code was that it continued to be focused on the mechanics of good governance: policies, processes, procedures and didn’t reflect the current importance placed upon the dynamics of good governance: people, personality, behaviours, relationships, culture and values. This has changed.

The new code has seven principles, which rest upon a foundation principle. As before, it is believed that these principles are universal to all types of charities. The principles are:

Foundation principle – which expects trustees to be committed to the cause, recognise meeting public benefit is an ongoing requirement, understand role and legal responsibilities, and commit to implementing good governance.

Principle 1 Organisational purpose - the board is clear about the charity’s aims and ensures that these are being delivered effectively and sustainably.

Principle 2 Leadership - every charity is led by an effective board that provides strategic leadership in line with the charity’s aims and values.

Principle 3 Integrity - the board acts with integrity, adopting values and creating a culture which helps achieve the organisation’s charitable purposes. The board is aware of the importance of the public’s confidence and trust in charities, and trustees undertake their duties accordingly.  

Principle 4 Decision making, risk and control - the board makes sure that its decision-making processes are informed, rigorous and timely and that effective delegation, control and risk-assessment and management systems are set up and monitored.

Principle 5 Board effectiveness - the board works as an effective team, using the appropriate balance of skills, experience, backgrounds and knowledge to make informed decisions.  

Principle 6 Diversity - the board’s approach to diversity supports its effectiveness, leadership and decision making.  

Principle 7 Open and accountable - the board leads the organisation in being transparent and accountable. The charity is open in its work, unless there is good reason for it not to be.  

In addition to these principles, there is supporting rationale, outcomes and recommended practice (separated between charities with an annual income over £1m and those below). One fundamental difference in this code is the adoption of ‘apply or explain’. As the code is voluntary, it better reflects the reality that we can only encourage charities to adopt the code and explain how their governance arrangements are effective.

There still remain areas that require further clarification or guidance, e.g. an example of reporting the application of the code in the trustee annual report, although we do not promote any type of ‘boilerplate’ statements; guidance on diversity reports; and more emphasis on the long-term interests of beneficiaries. Various organisations are producing guidance and toolkits to help charities implement the code; some will be free. Where relevant, many will be signposted on the code’s website.

Producing the code is only the start of the hard work, the steering group are now looking at how to put the code on a more sustainable footing. Further funding is required to help promote take up of the code and develop baseline research to measure impact. Furthermore, developments in the UK Corporate Governance Code will be monitored with a view to any impact it will have on the current code. This could mean the code is revised in the next two years. The steering group is also reviewing its composition – like all committees we need to ensure we have the right skills, competencies and knowledge to drive the code forward.

 

Louise Thomson FCIS
Head of Policy (Not for Profit)
ICSA: The Governance Institute.

The code can be found at: https://www.charitygovernancecode.org/en
Further good practice guidance can be found at: https://www.icsa.org.uk/knowledge/charity-resources

CHARITIES 2037

Your invitation to participate in ‘CHARITIES 2037’- An independent Study from Amárach Research commissioned by Charities Institute Ireland

Project Ambition:  To draft a vision for the future of the Charity sector in Ireland.

Charities 2037 came about after a discussion around the need for a national conversation about the role and future of the charity sector.  All organisations tend to self- perpetuate, but that is fundamentally different to a purpose.  The latest revolution in technology and economics has seen the destruction of many household organisations.  Retailing is different; banking is different and media is different.  The sense of local engagement is also changed.  In the 1960s the formation of many charities had its roots in post Vatican 2 social teaching.  In a more diverse society, with different social mores, the same drivers no longer apply. 

While the charitable and voluntary sector has always formed a key part of Irish society, much of it went unregulated and unaccountable. Irish society, government and the charities themselves need to consider what expectations they have of each other. What society wants and what charities can give needs to be reviewed.

Charities 2037 has been designed as a study that aims to provide stakeholders with the opportunity to consider how the charity/not for profit sector should develop over the next two decades.  It should both engage and challenge people to describe how they see the role of charitable organisations developing. 

In effect, we are seeking to write a manifesto for the charity sector for 2037 – outlining its promise and purpose; its responsibilities; its shape and structure and its future direction.  

Amárach Research is in the process of conducting one to one interviews with leaders in the private, public and charity sectors, Government Ministers past and present, senior opposition politicians, opinion formers, philanthropists and media. They are also conducting national surveys with the public on their perceptions of charities and their service provision today and what they hope for the future. The Study also includes a national survey with those who work in the charity sector and those who volunteer.

We are asking all member organisations to participate in this important study. Please share this 10 minute survey with your staff and volunteers. Their opinion will provide vital insights for the final report and recommendations which will be launched at Charities Institute Ireland Annual Conference on October 26th 2017.

Please click on the links below. The responses are all confidential and will be directed to the Amárach Research centre. 

 STAFF SURVEY: https://interviewing.nfieldmr.com/Interviews/YjPis/xVA4FgZUMkeUzkThCUxC

VOLUNTEER SURVEY:  https://interviewing.nfieldmr.com/Interviews/YjPis/yYoNyp5hYfDcnXbBaNKG

NB: At Q8 please just type in your answer and hit submit.

Lucy Masterson

Chief Executive, Charities Institute Ireland 

A question of good governance

In recent weeks reputational issues associated with charity operations continue to challenge the sector with standards in some organisations falling below what would be expected of those in receipt of public and/or government funding.  This ripple effect is leaving few charities untouched.

The work that Ireland's charitable organisations carry out is invaluable, providing essential services to those most in need or who have been neglected by other sectors across society.  But, there remains as much of a requirement here as in any other sector to ensure proper levels of good governance, transparency and accountability. The significance of this requirement cannot be emphasised enough as it is imperative in maintaining the trust of partners, patrons, sponsors, the general public and all those who rely on the vital services of charities.   

Charities Institute Ireland believes that the success of the charitable sector going forward will be in how the sector confronts the inconvenient truths of past practices of some charities and use the current challenges to integrate good corporate practice, procedures and effective governance to ensure that it reaches the highest standards of accountability, transparency and public trust. Without good governance, this sector will find it hard to achieve any sustained development let alone rise to the challenge of achieving true equitable social change.

To Merge or Not to Merge

Charity leaders scanning the external landscape will inevitably encounter the tempting concept of ‘merger’. Mergers are not for the faint-hearted, but neither are they necessarily to be avoided
— Mary Chadwick, Cass Business School

To mark the first anniversary of the merger that formed Charities Institute Ireland, we hosted a breakfast event for Chairpersons and CEO’s to focus on charity mergers - the opportunities, the challenges and practical guidance on how to ensure a successful outcome.

Opening remarks were made by Caitriona Fottrell, Vice President and Director, Ireland, The Ireland Funds.

Setting the Scene for Charity Mergers - Trends in the charity sector: Patricia Quinn, Managing Director of Benefacts provided insights from the Database of Irish Nonprofits.

Merger Process - A guide on ‘How To Merge’: Niamh Callaghan, Partner at Mason Hayes & Curran, specialising in Governance and Restructuring of Charities, has worked with charities of various sizes that have merged. Niamh took guests through the legal methods that can be used and highlighted the main legal stages in the process.

Successful Rebranding: Margaret Gilsenan, Partner and Head of Strategy at the award winnning creative agency Boys and Girls Ltd spoke about the process of successful rebranding and the importance of bringing all your stakeholders on the journey.


What is the charities SORP?

The Charities SORP is a Statement of Recommended Practice which sets out how charities should prepare their annual accounts and report on their finances. The SORP is an interpretation of the underlying financial reporting standards and generally accepted accounting practice. The SORP is overseen by a committee of 17 expert members drawn from the 4 charity law jurisdictions covered by UK-Irish GAAP.

What is the charities SORP (FRS102)?

The introduction of Financial Reporting Standard 102 (FRS 102) was a radical change as it brought together a whole series of piecemeal standards and guidelines on general accounting into a single standard. When FRS102 was introduced, the charity SORP was revised to interpret FRS102 for charities. A charity will now need to comply with FRS102 and the SORP (FRS102) for their financial statements to show a true and fair view.

How are charity SORP (FRS102) accounts different from standard FRS102 accounts?

The charity SORP requires a far greater level of information and disclosures in order to provide transparency and accountability. There are more requirements for the directors’ report, more analysis of income and expenditure and a focus on the funds position.

What is different about the directors’ report?

The directors’ or trustees’ report has to provide information on why the charity exists, so its objectives and aims, plus describe the types of activities it undertakes and how it delivers public benefit. The trustees’ report will incorporate the requirements of a business review or strategic report but offer more in terms of explaining the charity’s performance in the financial period and the impact its achievements have had on its beneficiaries.

Then there are the 3Rs: risk, reserves and remuneration. A charity has to describe the principal risks it faces and how it manages them, explain its policy for holding reserves and explain how it remunerates its executive staff.

What’s different about the statement of comprehensive income?

A charity will call this the SOFA, being the Statement of Financial Activities. A SOFA has far more detail than a typical income statement, with analysis of the key income streams between donations and legacies, income from charitable activities, income from trading activities and investment income. The expenditure will be analysed in a similar way, showing the costs of raising funds, investing and trading and the costs of delivering the charitable activities. 

The charitable activities should be analysed into the key activities described in the trustees’ report, so providing the reader with an understanding of the income and expenditure for each activity.

The most striking difference on a SOFA is the analysis of funds. There will be multiple columns on the SOFA to report the income and expenditure for endowment funds, restricted funds and unrestricted funds and the total. The nature of the fund determines what it was given for and how it can be used. Charities must use funds received in accordance with the conditions the funds were given under, so this analysis is key to providing accountability in the financial statements.

The SOFA does not report a profit or loss, but rather the net income/expenditure for the year and the net movement in funds. This is because a charity is not focussed on generating a profit/surplus or loss/deficit. The key things to report are the funds in, the funds out and the funds carried forward to spend in future periods. There is additional analysis in the notes of the movements of individual funds, whether they are endowments to be held as capital, restricted funds to be spent on particular purposes, designated funds which the trustees have earmarked for specific purposes or the general or “free” reserves.

What’s different about the statement of financial position?

A charity’s balance sheet will be very similar in presentation to a commercial entity’s, with the exception of the funds. The bottom half of the balance sheet will be analysed to show the amounts held in each of the endowment, restricted, designated and general funds.

What’s different about the statement of cash flows?

The statement itself is not different, but there are different requirements for which charities must prepare one. The charities SORP requires all “larger” charities with income over €500,000 to prepare a statement of cash flows, regardless of whether they could take the exemption under section 1A of FRS102.

What else is different?

The notes will provide an analysis of the income and expenditure by activity. As well as the key activities on the face of the SOFA, the notes will report expenditure incurred by way of overheads to support the key activities and the governance of the organisation. These are reported in the notes and then allocated to the key activities on the SOFA.

The notes also need to disclose any transactions with related parties. The related parties of a charity include all the trustees and their close family members, plus the key management personnel and their spouses. If the charity transacts with any of these individuals, it will need to consider if the transaction needs to be disclosed in the financial statements. The SORP provides information on the types of transactions that must be reported and those that do not.

The most important disclosure is where a trustee has been paid, either for performing their trustee role or in their professional capacity.

The most common disclosure is in relation to trustees’ expenses, which must be disclosed whether they are reimbursed costs that the trustee has paid for themselves or whether the charity paid for the expenditure directly on the trustees’ behalf.

The SORP also requires the disclosure of any donations from related parties, with detailed disclosure for any donations made with conditions. The charity must also disclose the aggregate total of donations received from related parties without conditions. 

Joanna Pittman, Sayer Vincent UK

Where can I find out more?

Join Joanna at the next "Getting to Grips with SORP" full day training course on the 19th September at the RCPI, 6 Kildare St, Dublin.

 

 

Managing Long Term – A space for mergers?

Charitable and not-for-profit organisations serve a unique function, offering public benefits through private and voluntary actions. Playing such an important and omnipresent role in the lives of so many of us here in Ireland and abroad requires this sector to operate in a manner as not to be wasteful with its resources and to achieve the greatest positive impact on behalf of its beneficiaries, donor, sponsors and patrons. These challenges have become more pronounced because of the recent economic collapse and consequential fall in fundraised income, and in part, due to the erosion of trust resulting from the failures within the sector. Coupled with this, a decrease in government funding, which previously had been a given and stable source of income, is now a new reality for many organisations. This is particularly poignant and ironic, coming at a time of greater need for the services offered by this sector.

With public perception of an overcrowded and highly competitive marketplace coupled with constrained public and private funding and the continuing public interest in how this sector is managed and funded, demands the sector to justify its effectiveness, fulfil its objectives and demonstrate its impact. In this period of great social, economic and regulatory change it is essential for organisations to assess their effectiveness and areas for improvement, to create more innovate flows of finance to secure their future and maintain public legitimacy and integrity.  

By being viewed in the broad context of partnership and collaboration, articulating the value of mergers as a means of joint working could be an obvious answer, and part of the innovation to create value and an important means of making charities more effective by improving existing services, creating new benefits and saving money.

Mergers within this sector are not very common suggesting that the sector is not organised to maximise value. To help understand this we need to look at the structure of the sector and what defines the trends and behaviours around mergers, most being perceived as hostile and/or predatory, frequently driven by crisis but rarely seen as a means to growth. This defensive approach is in direct contrast to the growth seeking attitude that we often see in the ‘for-profit’ sector where acquiring companies is normal business creating value for shareholders. Charities worry that merging will reduce income and their ability to generate revenue often arguing that a merged charity will only attract one grant where two charities would normally get one each.  Patrons, sponsors and donors prefer to fund projects rather than organisations so this reasoning should have no basis. A merger that is done well and reduces costs could be a powerful argument for attracting more funding. 

Organisations managed as a single entity or formed by the amalgamation of two or more organisations is greater than the sum of its parts not only creating clear economies of scale but by consolidation: aligning mission, capital and impact strategies, will help to secure sustainability and growth whilst optimising efficiencies, ensuring long-term viability, funding growth opportunities and balancing risk. Each charity is unique and does a remarkable job given their size and budgets, but some have much in common. By coming together and retaining the best elements of both, organisations can boost what each has rather than compete for it.

But what of the opportunities for improving services for beneficiaries? What of the economic benefits, the opportunity that a hard Brexit could bring and the possibilities of mergers or alliances between Irish and UK charities?

The motivation for a merger needs to come from within with the broad support of trustees and staff and viewed as a strategic decision, driven by a desire to improve services for beneficiaries and achieving its charitable purpose. Foremost in the minds of trustees and executives should be the question ‘how can we achieve the most for the people we seek to help?’ Pursuing a charitable objective should encourage trustees and the executive to seek what is best for their beneficiaries, not what is best for their charity. Putting mission ahead of individual organisational interests should effect greater collaboration and an openness to merge.

It is time for those of us within this sector to find solutions to our recurring problems. Charities Institute Ireland does not advocate a merger without careful consideration or due process but does realise that an important obstacle to considering mergers and alliances is the availability of information thus making it hard to spot opportunities for collaboration and identifying potential mergers. Charities Institute Ireland, itself born of a merger, will over the coming months host a number of ‘Member Advisory Forums’ which will cover this important topic and discuss opportunities in greater detail. 

Profiling' provision - submission to the Data Protection Commission

30th March 2017

Dear Sir/Madam,

Charities Institute Ireland would like to thank you for the opportunity to make a submission regarding ‘Profiling’ under the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR contains several Recitals on profiling.  The criteria of ‘legal effects and ‘significant effects’ does pose problems of interpretation. The data subject has the right not to be the subject of a decision based exclusively on automated processing.  The definition of profiling provided for in the regulation raises questions about the cases involved in profiling. To determine whether it is profiling, two criteria must be taken into account:

  • Automated processing
  • A purpose for assessing certain aspects relating to a natural person.

Firstly, it is necessary to understand that if the decision is not fully automated, and if a person intervenes in the processing of the data, notably to make the decision, that this is not profiling?  The legislation appears to go in this direction since it states that the person has the right not to be subjected to fully automated processing based solely on profiling and is not applicable where the interest of the recipient does not constitute a decision for ‘legal consequences’ or ‘not significantly’ affecting the person concerned, such as an automatically declined loan, mortgage, increase in an insurance policy etc.

Any classification of individuals according to specific segmentation criteria can be considered as profiling, assuming that it is actually performed by machines e.g., students ranked by grades to assess their performance, sales professionals in an organisation evaluated on the basis of ranking of sales figures etc. From our interpretation, we understand that none of these examples fall within the scope of the ‘profiling’ provision.

In our opinion, the main problem is not necessarily profiling but rather the way in which the profiling is actually used, its impact on the individual and the lack of human intervention. 

Attention should first be paid to profiling activities:

  • Based solely on automated processing
  • May cause unfair, detrimental and significant effects to the persons concerned in relation to access to essential services (mortgages, loan Insurance) or to their dignity and freedoms.

Furthermore, the GDPR definition of profiling appropriately includes basic online business activities such as consumer segmentation to provide appropriate advice or advertising.  This type of profiling is often referred to as ‘current’ profiling and is at the origin of a free internet for all.  The GDPR distinguishes ‘current’ profiling from profiling associated with fully automated data processing that has ‘legal effects’ or ‘significantly affect’s the data subjects.  ‘Current’ profiling is legitimate business interests and the data subjects have the right to object.

The right to object to profiling which is based on legitimate business interests of the controller is a reflection of the previous directives and an equitable way of offering individuals the ability to choose and control.   GDPR rightly recognises that companies cannot offer users the main services on which they rely without ‘current’ profiling such as preference based advertising.  Should it be considered that targeted advertising has legal effects or affects the person concerned significantly?  If this is the case we would like to draw your attention to the fact that such a qualification could have serious economic consequences, since all sectors of activity today use targeted advertising.

Charities Institute Ireland calls on the Data Protection Commissioner to interpret these provisions in line with the original spirit of the GDPR – that is, by limiting decisions considered to have ‘legal effects’ or ‘significant effects’ to situations where these effects would have a real negative impact on the persons concerned e.g., the ability to obtain credit etc.

Charities Institute Ireland further calls on the Data Protection Commissioner to accept and confirm, with respect to the charitable, not-for-profit and the voluntary sector and their funding model that:

  • Detailing profiling/development purposes within the Privacy Statement and Data Usage Statements of a charitable organisation is sufficient to adhere to this element of the GDPR.
  • That the right of donors to oppose profiling is satisfied by allowing the person concerned to delete their information without any other conditions.

Charities Institute Ireland considers that donor profiling does not deprive the person concerned of a right but on the contrary fosters true engagement and giving as it is adopted to the donors values and interests and thus seen as an opportunity to express their support for a charity and not an intrusion on privacy.

Sincerely yours.

_______________

Caroline Lafferty.

Membership and Communications Manager.

NEW SURVEY FINDS CHARITY SECTOR IS ON THE WAY TO REBUILDING TRUST WITH THE PUBLIC

A survey commissioned by Charities Institute Ireland (Cii), published today, Monday 27th March, shows that there is a rise in the number of people who feel that Irish charities are doing a good job of restoring trust in the sector.

TRUST

Of those who expressed an opinion, 27 per cent feel that the Irish charity sector is “doing enough to build trust with their donors” - an increase of 14 per cent from 2016’s survey, when the same question was asked.

The survey, undertaken by Amárach Research, also shows that while just 24 per cent feel that they can trust Irish charities nowadays, this figure remains unchanged from last year, showing that the decline as halted.

Lucy Masterson, CEO of Charities Institute Ireland, commented on the findings today. “While trust in the sector is still much lower than we would like it to be - largely due to the malpractice that was brought to light in the last two years - these new findings are encouraging. They show that the declining trend in trust has halted, and that the public are beginning to have confidence that the sector, as a whole, is working hard to restore that trust,” she said.  

SALARIES

46 per cent of those surveyed feel that wages in the charity sector are too high. This is unchanged since last year, but is down from 51 per cent in 2015.

43 per cent agree that senior management in the charity sector should be paid less than their private sector counterparts.

However, 55 per cent agree that charities should get the best professionals possible to work for them. This is down from 68 per cent in 2015, but it is still a high percentage. In addition, 37 per cent of those surveyed agree that charities need to pay competitive wages to get the best people to work for them.

Gerard O’Neill, Chairman of Amárach Research, says: “This research points to a positive shift in Irish attitudes towards the charity sector. It seems that a lot of the anger that was there just a few years ago is giving way to a more pragmatic recognition that charities have an important job to do and they need the right people to do it.”

DONATIONS

Overall, people are more likely to sign up to a regular direct debit payment to a charity. Direct mail is the most likely form of communication to lead a sign-up.

The survey shows that people’s preferred method of communication is email or direct mail, with those under 45 more likely to opt for email.

This survey is the 3rd annual tracker developed for the charity sector by Amárach Research and supported by An Post.

Fiona Heffernan. Head of Post Media, An Post says: “An Post is proud to support Charities Institute Ireland, and the broader charity sector, in producing this benchmark annual research.”


General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - Survey

The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) signals a new generation of data privacy laws that commands a major shift for many charities, religious orders and not-for-profits.  This new legislation will impact how these organisations use data.  Charities Institute Ireland believes that this legislation will enable religious orders, charities and not-for-profits to appropriately balance collaboration and transparency with data protection and privacy, supporting them in their work with donors and beneficiaries to bring about a culture of engagement and giving that is progressively seen as a welcome opportunity to express one’s values and support for these organisations and not an intrusion on privacy.

Charities Institute Ireland has devised a survey to examine the readiness of Irish charities, religious orders and not-for-profits towards GDPR, to benchmark key operational impacts and assess the difficulty in complying to the new regulations.  Your feedback will enable Charities Institute Ireland to plan on how best to assist you in your preparation for and compliance with GDPR.

Please complete our survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/G26RYTV

An issue of TRUST

According to the latest NFPSynergy report the recognised vulnerability for Irish charities is the issue of trust.  With continuous and intense media and government scrutiny, it is imperative to ensure that proper levels of governance, accountability and transparency are established and nurtured. The significance, and crucially the ubiquity of this requirement cannot be emphasised enough as it plays a fundamental role in maintaining the trust of partners, patrons, the general public and all those that rely on the vital services of charities.

Charities Institute Ireland's 'Triple Lock' mechanism is in place to explicitly rebuild trust. It is important to reflect on the benefits for charities that actively engage with this process. Such a benefit will be the trust of their donors. In an age of high and pervasive levels of cynicism, for charities trust is their most valuable economic asset.

The Naked Truth - Trust and Transparency - The Leadership Challenge

In the run up to the Brexit referendum Michael Gove commented that the people were fed-up with experts.  Donald Trump might as well have said the same thing. In all areas of society, from the political establishment to the mainstream media, people are turning away from the traditional sources of authority and leadership.

For CEOs and Departmental Heads within the not-for-profit sector, this disconnection has serious implications. It is not an option to, in the words of Bertold Bercht, "dissolve the people and elect a new one".  Instead the current models of leadership must undergo a crucial evolution. 

Our upcoming conference on Thursday January 19th  The Naked Truth - Trust and Transparency - The Leadership Challenge, will map out the nature of this necessary evolution, showing leaders within the charitable sector how they can reconnect with a largely disillusioned populace and the new ways in which they can actively earn and build on the vital trust of the people.  It will deal with the roles of leadership in the phenomena of the ever changing market situations which are compelling charities to incessantly reassess and re-evaluate how they work and to help those working within the sector to understand, adopt and implement changes in their business model in response to changing trends.

Full details on this conference are available here on our Events page

Cii's Response to the Irish Times Article

Letter to Editor, the Irish Times.

 Dear Sir,

Oliver Callan’s article ‘The Season of charity guilt-tripping’ in the Irish Times (Dec 15th) conflates facts with one-liners and replaces analysis with misinformed opinion.

His allegation that charities are ‘out of control’ and ‘in urgent need of regulation’ is simply false. Strict accounting requirements, from Revenue to HSE, apply to all charity fundraising and spending. Charities actively sought the additional monitoring and regulation now provided through the Charity Regulator.

His claim that there are 24,000 charities is wrong by a multiple of three. Revenue have granted charitable tax exemption in 8,150 cases.

Charities are appalled at the rare occurrence of fraud, as alleged in the case of Console, and I have publicly and strongly condemned this type of behaviour.

His conversation with ‘one lady’ who claimed that only five cent in every euro raised ‘was used for the actual cause’ bears no link to the reality. The average is 70 cent in every euro going to the cause.

Charities do not ‘fumble in greasy tills, free from proper oversight.’ Only a fraction of charities engage in any significant fundraising and this is undertaken to maintain essential services under increasing pressure as an outcome of recession.

He complains that ‘so many services for the most vulnerable fall to charities’ and that ‘the vast majority are probablypointless’ Health charities, for example, provide expertise, understanding and support to individuals and families that matches and regularly surpasses the state in competence and efficiency. Charities continue to be contracted by the state and its agencies to deliver vital services in health and other areas for this precise reason.

Like any other sector of society, charities are not perfect. But the vast majority of the thousands of people who work or give their time to charities day in, day out, do so out of genuine commitment and belief in a cause. The general public understand the role and contribution of the sector. 

In a brief lapse into factual reality, Oliver Callan acknowledges this and that Ireland is consistently ‘in the Top 10 in the World Giving Index.’ But he has otherwise abused his considerable talents in taking a cheap shot at the very concept of giving and working for social impact and justice.

Yours sincerely,

Lucy Masterson,

CEO

General Data Protection Regulation

Following four years of intense negotiation the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now due to come into effect May 25th 2018. For charities, as for all other businesses, this updated data protection framework represents both an opportunity and a challenge. The GDPR has been designed to give the public a greater amount of control over their personal data and the manner in which it is collected and used by companies. As such, charities need to be aware that when it comes to fundraising, all data collection and processing activities will soon require more rigorous controls than at present, while potential penalties for non-compliance will be far more onerous. Naturally charities will now have to audit their processes from top to bottom to ensure that they are fully prepared and in compliance pre-2018. No mean feat, yet it is important to remember that the GDPR is, at least in part, a regulator’s answer to an issue that sooner or later all companies, including charities, must face up to: namely, the substantial erosion of public trust.

This lack of trust manifests itself in several ways. In a broader context, it fuels the anti-establishment upheavals that have characterised 2016: Brexit, Trump, and most recently Italy’s rejection of Matteo Renzi’s proposed reforms. In terms of personal data, a raft of data breaches coupled with revelations of mass surveillance programs have left the public extremely wary of the interface between technology and their private information. While in the context of Ireland’s charity sector, a number of well-publicised scandals, though confined to specific bodies, have unfortunately placed the sector as a whole in a critical light, inevitably impacting on public trust.

This is an issue that must be tackled on many fronts, but perhaps the safeguarding of personal data is a good place to begin. Under the GDPR, charities will need to build sustainable measures for ensuring data privacy into all aspects of their operations. They must  gain explicit consent from donors before processing their personal data. They will need to clearly inform them of the complaints channel open to anybody unhappy with how their data has been processed. They will need to be responsive: donor requests concerning access to their data must be actioned in a timely fashion, and where a data breach occurs and a donor’s data is clearly at risk, the charity must notify them with all due haste. In addition, they must respect their donor’s right to be forgotten and, upon request, delete any personal data that is not necessary for contractual purposes.

These are only some of the obligations that Ireland’s charities must attend to between now and May 2018. As we said before, no mean feat. However, a positive and energetic engagement with the incoming regulations will greatly benefit the charities in question, sending a clear message to prospective donors that their personal data is highly valued and will be rigorously protected. In the vital effort to rebuild public trust post 2016, this will count for a lot.

To ensure that charities are fully prepared for the GDPR, Charities Institute Ireland will be hosting a professional certificate in Data Protection on February 22nd 2017.