Guiding principles of ChangePath
- ChangePath is an independent, transparent service to help people who wish to choose a charity to donate to. To remain independent, ChangePath does not accept money from charities in any way that could be seen as a conflict of interest. Rankings and scores cannot be bought.
- ChangePath has no political, religious, or cultural affiliation. All charities are treated equally and on their merits alone.
Where has all your data come from?
The data on ChangePath comes from 3 sources:
- The ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission register), with data updated roughly every 6 months
- Charity websites, using ChangePath's automated search
- Charities themselves, if they have registered for an account.
Why don't you provide a ratio of money spent on mission activities vs administration (also known as the 'overhead ratio')?
Two reasons. First, there is no standardised reporting of financial data in Australia that would make that possible. Secondly, research has found that charities that spend more on overhead costs are often more impactful than those that spend less. Which makes sense - charities that invest properly in their IT, finance, and measurement systems are more effective and impactful than those that do not. The majority of serious charity-assessing organisations (including the highly respected Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance) are actively discouraging using that metric for making decisions about whether a charity is worth donating to. For a full and eloquent summary of the reasons why, see this open letter: http://overheadmyth.com/
Why do I get odd results in my search?
Data on what charities do is sourced from what that charities themselves provide to the ACNC. Unfortunately, many charities have a tendency to put themselves under rather odd or broad categories. For example, the RSPCA Victoria say that they do 'Emergency Relief' and that they work with communities overseas. Which they do, but only for animals. This has the odd consequence that the RSPCA tends to appear whenever people search for international aid agencies. We've made the conscious choice to not edit charity's self-assessed categories unless they're obviously wrong (a university that doesn't do education, for instance). Who are we to gainsay what a charity says it does? This is not ideal, obviously, and we are working on a better system.
Do you guarantee that your information is correct?
No. We will do our best to keep this information up to date, but we are not infallible. If you see an error, please fill in the Update Form.
Some of the information about a charity is wrong - how do I let you know?
Thanks very much for wanting to help! You can either go to the charities page on the ChangePath website and click the 'Flag' button on the top right, or you can fill out the Update Form.
My charity isn't listed! What do I do?
If your charity is registered with the ACNC (you can check at the ACNC website), fill in the New Charity Form, giving the ACNC URL of the charity. If your charity is NOT listed with the ACNC, we are not able to accept it at this time. The charity must also have an active web presence to be listed.
Can anyone submit an update?
Yes, but any information provided must be publicly available. All updates are at the discretion of ChangePath.
Financial rating Q&A
How is the financial rating calculated?
See the 'Detailed scoring' section at the bottom of each charity page to see exactly what has determined that charity's score. The financial assessment is based on three broad categories:
- Losses in past three years - if a charity makes a loss in the majority of years assessed, they recieve a lower score.
- Assets greater than liabilities - a charity should have more assets than liabilities, i.e. it should have enough money and other items of value to pay off all its debts and obligations.
- Asset cover of expenses - the charity should be able to cover more than 3 months of expenses using its assets. i.e. the charity should be able to survive for three months without any revenue.
Many of these measures are admittedly crude, and we are continually working to create better and more subtle measures of charity financial strength. These measures are mainly to catch truly poor performance - a charity with three stars doesn't necessarily mean it is in top financial health, but a charity with one star or less is probably in trouble (assuming we have access to their financial details).
Importantly, charities that do not make their financial details available get an automatic score of 0. A lack of historical data will also often lead to a reduced score.
Transparency rating Q&A
Are all the revenue numbers, ratios and so forth strictly comparable?
No. Different charities have different reporting periods, reporting methods, and accounting eccentricities. This means that all numbers in these tables cannot be directly compared to one another accurately, and should be used as a guide rather than as a hard-and-fast way of differentiating between charities.
What determines the transparency score?
The transparency score is simply a measure of what information about a charity is made available to the public. The more information (in the form of annual and financial reports), the higher the score. See the 'Detailed scoring' section at the bottom of each charity page to see exactly what has determined that charity's score. For a perfect score, a charity must have both an up-to-date and historic annual reports easily available on its own website, and financials available on the ACNC.
How reliable are your listings?
The listings represent a snapshot, a moment in time. Charity websites can change rapidly - it's entirely possible for a charity to gain or lose stars in a few hours with a few simple website changes. These rankings will be updated regularly, or when we are notified of a change.
What if a charity is misrepresented by the transparency score?
Ratings change over time. If you believe a charity has been misrepresented, or a charity has become more transparent by putting its financial information online and that isn't reflected in our score, please let us know by filling in the Update Form.
What about if a charity has an annual or financial report, but you need to email them to get it?
Well, that's not very transparent, is it? All supporters should have easy and immediate access to the report without going through a gatekeeper or having to provide a reason.
When do charities have to have their annual reports online?
A: Charities are given a full financial year to put up their annual reports - i.e. 22/23 annual reports must be up by June 2024. While this is a substantial amount of time, the transparency score isn't meant to be a 'who is most efficient at putting up their reports' competition. It's judged that, if it takes longer than a full year to create and put online a report, they're not being very transparent.
Outcome seal Q&A
Why is it important for charities to measure their outcomes?
One of the most important things a charity needs to do is measure the outcomes it is creating. Unlike many other forms of organisation, it's hard to easily quantify whether a charity is 'doing good' or not. As a vast oversimplification, at a business you can just look at the numbers - if it is making more money, it's doing well. Charities don't have that luxury. In order to tell if a charity is actually making a difference, it needs to have an active way of measuring the impact it creates.
This is important because there are a number of instances of charities doing what they honestly thought was a good idea, but when it was actually measured ended up underperforming.
Let’s take an example – a charity that wants to reduce the number of people that binge drink. They decide that one of the ways that they can do that is by putting up posters in bars talking about the evils of binge drinking. To try and get additional funding for their ‘posters in bars’ program, the charity runs a trial. They want to see how effective it is. So they run an experiment, where they test how much people drink in bars with and without the posters.
This is a real study, done by the Drinkaware Trust in the UK. What they found was that having the posters up in a bar didn’t mean people drank less. They drank more.
Why? The study doesn’t say. Perhaps people are just naturally belligerent. Maybe talking about binge drinking is a prompt to do so. Regardless, it goes to show that what you would assume is a normal, straightforward intervention just doesn’t work. As it turns out, changing human behaviour is difficult. Really difficult.
Another, more famous example is the Scared Straight initiative in the US. They took ‘bad’ kids, took them to prisons, and showed them how terrible it was. The idea was to make them too afraid to commit crimes. The effect was the opposite – kids that went on the program committed more crimes than equivalent kids that didn’t.
Our instincts about what works and what doesn’t are often wrong. This makes it essential that charities measure and evaluate their own programs to make sure that they are actually accomplishing anything. Put simply, if a charity doesn’t measure what it does, it doesn’t know if it works.
What determines the outcome seal?
The outcome seal is based on information that the charity provides directly to ChangePath about their measurement and evaluation. This means that charities that don't have a seal may still be doing a good job of measuring their impact - it's just that they haven't noted so on ChangePath. Charities can add their overall outcomes measurement methodology, as well as individual outcomes for specific years. See the 'Detailed scoring' section at the bottom of each charity page to see exactly what has determined that charity's score.
ChangePath financial reports
ChangePath is funded entirely by donations from the general public. As a small not-for-profit, we have no official reporting requirements in terms of annual and financial reports. However, it would be hypocritical of us not to present our financial statements for the year.
Who we are
Our board is composed of experts from law, auditing, web startups, and charities. Our immense thanks to them for their significant and unpaid contribution to the success of ChangePath. Currently our committee is composed of:
- Reg Leones
- Bambul Shakibaei
- Christie Moffat
- Laura Dawson
- Ben Lambert
- Vicki Meyer
For more information, contact the team.