About ChangePath

Guiding principles of ChangePath

  1. 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.
  2. ChangePath has no political, religious, or cultural affiliation. All charities are treated equally and on their merits alone.

General Q&A

Q: Where has all your data come from?

A: The majority of the data on ChangePath.com.au has been sourced from the ACNC register, as well as by manually searching the website of each charity.

Q: Why do I get odd results in my search?

A: 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.

Q: Why don't you provide a ratio of money spent on mission activities vs administration (also known as the 'overhead ratio')?

A: Two reasons. First, there is no standardised reporting of financial data in Australia that would make that possible. Secondly, 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/

Q: What is the donations to revenue ratio? Is it better to be larger or smaller?

A: The donations to revenue ratio is exactly that - what proportion of the money that the charity receives comes from donations or other fundraising from us average joes? A good way to think about it is this - the higher the ratio (i.e. the closer to 100%), the more dependent on your money that charity is. That isn't necessarily a good thing! It could mean that their researchers win a lot of grants, or they sell goods and services as a business (not fundraising), or they get a lot of money from the government. Look at their annual report in more detail, find out where their money is coming from. Bottom line: Charities with a high ratio 'need' your money more. That doesn't mean they deserve it more. Don't base your decisions solely on this ratio.

Q: Do you guarantee that your information is correct?

A: 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.

Q: Some of the information about a charity is wrong - how do I let you know?

A: 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.

Q: My charity isn't listed! What do I do?

A: If your charity is registered with the ACNC (you can check at the ACNC website), fill in the New Charity Form, giving the ABN listed next to your charity in the ACNC lists. If your charity is NOT listed with the ACNC, we are not able to accept it at this time. Apologies.

Q: Can anyone submit an update?

A: Yes, but any information provided must be publicly available. All updates are at the discretion of ChangePath.

Financial rating Q&A

Q: 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:

  1. Losses in past three years - if a charity makes a loss in the majority of years assessed, they recieve a lower score.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Q: What are the rules for what counts as 'donations/bequests'?

Donations/bequests/sponsorships is meant to be a guide of how much money is recieved by the charity from the general public (as opposed to goverment grants or service provision). This means it must be calculated based on the numbers provided by the charity. As many charities use different accounting methods, this number may not be comparable between charities. We will use the donation number provided to the ACNC preferentially, then calculate it using the method below if that is not available.

Calculating the number is done using the following criteria:

  • Sponsorships are included
  • Fundraising including events is included
  • Grants are not included
  • Money raised through commercial activities (selling goods, providing services) is not included
  • Membership subscriptions are not included
  • If a number combines items that both would and wouldn't be included (i.e. memberships and donations), it is not included

Q: What are the rules used for revenue collection?

  • 'Consolidated' numbers are used where split into consolidated/parent

Transparency rating Q&A

Q: Are all the revenue numbers, ratios and so forth strictly comparable?

A: 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.

Q: What determines the transparency score?

A: 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 and financial reports easily available on its own website. If the charity has finances available on the ACNC website they are given a partial credit.

Q: How reliable are your listings?

A: 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.

Q: What if a charity is misrepresented by the transparency score?

A: Ratings change over time. If you believe a charity has been misrepresented, or a charity has become more transparent by putting it's financial information online and that isn't reflected in our score, please let us know by filling in the Update Form.

Q: What about if a charity has an annual or financial report, but you need to email them to get it?

A: 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.

Q: 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. 13/14 annual reports must be up by June 2015. 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.

Privacy score Q&A

Q: What determines the privacy score?

The privacy score is currently a very crude measure - it simply gives a single star if a charity has a privacy policy easily accessible on their website, and no stars if they do not.

Q: Why have a privacy score?

When you donate to a charity, you give them your personal information. Their privacy policy states what they will do with your information - for example selling it or exchanging it with other charities. In future, we hope that this score will assess how each charity is allowed to use your data.

Who we are

The founder

Sam Thorp is the sole founder of ChangePath. With a background in the charity and healthcare sectors, and a drive to make things better, Sam built ChangePath with the goal of making it easier for people to decide what charity they want to donate to. If you want to know more, see his personal website or his LinkedIn.

Our Board

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
  • Elle McGlynn
  • Ben Lambert

Contact details

For more information, contact Sam Thorp.