Intelligent Giving was a website for charity donors run by a small charity based in Bethnal Green, London. It was founded in 2005 by two former journalists, David Pitchford and Peter Heywood, and launched on 1 November 2006. In September 2009 the charity wound down but the website and brand were taken over by New Philanthropy Capital. The website was discontinued soon after.
Intelligent Giving aimed to raise public interest in charitable giving and advised donors how to make the most satisfactory use of their money. It was one of several organisations, including New Philanthropy Capital (UK) and Charity Navigator (US), that formed for this purpose, and it operated in a relatively new sector in the not-for-profit arena. It sought to bring its findings to as wide a readership as possible, employing chatty and casual English on its website and issuing timely press releases of charity-related material. The authors aligned themselves with donors, not with the charity fundraising community. The organisation was a company limited by guarantee and itself gained charitable status in 2008.
Services and work
The central feature of Intelligent Giving's website was a charity ratings service. In 2005–06, it researched and rated over 500 UK charities and listed a further 1,000. Although it clearly acknowledged that quality of work is the most important way to judge a charity, it held transparency as an important indicator of a charity’s diligence, and said that this was the most important aspect—and a cross-sector comparable one—of a charity's annual report.
Intelligent Giving claimed to assess transparency using 43 criteria derived largely from research carried out by the Charity Commission in 2004. Intelligent Giving gives a percentage score for the transparency, or "Quality of reporting" of each charity.
The website also contained overviews of charity sectors, an explanation of the full range of ways to give, interviews with givers and short articles by experts. It also provided a discussion forum for the donor community.
In November 2006, Intelligent Giving published an article about Children in Need, a big charity, which attracted wide attention—some of which Intelligent Giving regarded as misleading—across the British media. The article, titled "Four things wrong with Pudsey", described donations to Children in Need as a 'lazy and inefficient way of giving' and pointed out that, as a grant-giving charity, Children in Need would use donations to pay two sets of administration costs. It also described the quality of some of its public reporting as 'shambolic'.
In March 2007, Intelligent Giving claimed that English Premiership football clubs were not giving enough to charity. Chelsea FC was particularly criticized in this work, and an alleged member of the Club's media team threatened an Intelligent Giving employee with violence in response to media reports.
In June 2007, the organisation analysed the Jewish charities it had profiled and concluded, "They are pretty appalling in terms of transparency." Details from the report were published in The Jewish Chronicle.
October 2007 saw Intelligent Giving name and shame in The Guardian the rugby union charity Wooden Spoon Society for providing a very low return on its fundraising activities. Intelligent Giving's argument was rejected by John Inverdale, a BBC broadcaster, in an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph as "misguided reporting that fails to understand how fund-raising operates." It was also condemned by Wooden Spoon in a statement.
Intelligent Giving was criticised by the Charity Commission following the complaint it raised regarding Wooden Spoon. In a letter dated 13 November 2007, a Charity Commission representative disagreed with IG's financial analysis and stated, "The Commission does not concur with your view that the charity's costs were excessive, taking into account the method of fundraising which is employed by the Charity". This judgement subsequently attracted attention in The Sunday Telegraph, where it was given as an example of the Charity Commission's poor decision-making process.
Voluntary sector response
Intelligent Giving said it received good and bad responses from charities in equal measure. Negative responses included: Steve Taylor of Sue Ryder Care, who decried the organisation as a 'self appointed guardian' with 'little demonstrable understanding of the operating framework' of charities; the Institute of Fundraising, which called its research methods 'rudimentary'; and Sir Terry Wogan (a trustee of Children in Need) who condemned its work as 'contemptible'.
Intelligent Giving's analytical approach—which resulted in the production of league tables that rank charities by their degrees of transparency—also caused concern. Detractors argued that charities do complex work that cannot be summed up in tabular form. Intelligent Giving, however, said that its approach was significantly more nuanced than that of other charity-profiling services, such as Charity Navigator in the US.
- Charity Navigator: financial analysis and ratings of US charities
- GuideStar: UK and US databases and information on charities
- GiveWell: An American non-profit charity evaluator, focused on identifying outstanding charities that are proven, cost-effective, scalable, and transparent.
- "The History". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "New Philanthropy Capital to take over the work of Intelligent Giving". New Philanthropy Capital. Retrieved 2009-09-08.
- "Press office". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
- Pitchford, Dave. "Why the Obsession with annual reports?". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "How We Review". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "For Charities: How we calculate transparency". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- Pitchford, Dave. "The Times, Children in Need, and us". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
- Rothwell, Adam. "Four Things Wrong With Pudsey". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- Ghosh, Neill. "Football's Big Guns Caught Offside". Intelligent Giving. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
- Marre, Oliver. "Pendennis: Chelsea play hard - off the pitch as well as on". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
- Malley, Paul. "League of Scrooges". Daily Star.
- Rocker, Simon. "‘Secret’ charities under attack". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-06-29.[dead link]
- "New Media Awards 2007 Winners". The New Statesman. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Booth, Rob (2007-10-29). "Watchdog blows whistle on rugby charity's £2m bill for high living". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- Palmer, Alasdair (2008-01-20). "To be charitable, this commission is warped". London: The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- Kelly, Annie (2006-11-29). "Pudsey's worst nightmare". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- Wogan, Terry (2006-11-19). "Wogan's World". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-05-01.
- Pitchford, David (2007-01-10). "Are charities really afraid of committing to transparency?". Third Sector. Retrieved 2007-01-19.
-  NPC explanation of Intelligent Giving's work