Methodology: How the Bureau put a figure on Britain’s military charities

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Working it out. The Bureau analysed the accounts of hundreds of military charities.

A Bureau investigation compiled the most comprehensive list ever of military charities. It looked at hundreds of charities and formed a database detailing the charities’ financial data, as well as highlighting unusual and interesting sections of the accounts.

To understand the charities’ overall financial position, the Bureau compiled data using financial accounts published by the Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Although these organisations collect and publish charities’ accounts, there was no comprehensive list of military charities. Nor were there any comprehensive or accurate figures on the financial position of military charities as a whole.

Therefore, a list of military charities was compiled through a manual search of dozens of key terms, as well as cross-checking with charity lists on the Ministry of Defence’s website and various other military sites.

Defining ‘military’
An important issue in compiling the list identifying how strong a military link was needed for it to be described as a ‘military charity’. The Bureau interpreted the categorisation to mean any charity that deals directly with current service personnel, veterans, and people and issues very closely linked to the UK Armed Forces.

This meant that charities catering for children, such as scouts, cadets and boys’ brigades were not recorded. Nor were military museums.

When parent charities had subsidiaries, the database included the consolidated accounts of the parent charity and did not record individual subsidiaries to avoid duplication. The occasional exception came where the parent charity is not included – this could be either as the parent charity was not a military one, or in a very few cases when the apparent parent charity could not be identified or traced on the Charity Commission’s database. There were also cases where the accounts of ‘parent’ charities did consolidate the accounts of subsidiaries.

‘Charitable spending’
The figures recorded for ‘charitable spending’ depended on how the information was recorded in the accounts. Most accounts provided a total amount for ‘charitable activities’, and this was taken, without making judgements about what those charitable activities were. In some cases, however, spending was not broken down in this way, this meant in some cases a judgement was required about what was ‘charitable’. Clearly, this is not an exact science, but attempts were made to stick as closely as possible to the types of expenditure classified as ‘charitable’ by other charities. This excluded governance costs, expenses and similar costs.

Prosthetics

The financial accounts differ in years but represent the most up-to-date picture as recorded by the England and Wales, and Scottish charitable authorities on their websites at the time of creating the Bureau’s database (May 2012).

There are, however, some gaps in the data where information was not available.

Missing data
Aside from annual income, details of the Scottish charities’ accounts were not included in the data because the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) does not publish accounts on its website. In fact, the only way to obtain all this information would be to contact each charity individually and make a request to be sent copies of the latest financial accounts.

Northern Irish military charities were not included, as there is no central charitable register.

In England and Wales, charities with an income under thresholds set by the Charity Commission do not have to publish full accounts. In these cases we have included the only figures available on the commission’s site – income and overall spending – rather than figures from the full financial accounts.

However, because it is not possible to say how much of the expenditure for these charities was on ‘charitable activities’, these figures were omitted from the total sum of military charities’ charitable spending. But these figures were always small – which is why these charities were exempt from having to disclose full financial accounts.

Not all charities’ accounts were up-to-date on the regulator’s website. When this has happened, the Bureau used the Bureau’s database were the most up-to-date available. But in many cases no accounts or headline figures at all were available from the Charity Commission. This is also true with new charities that have yet to file accounts. All of these charities were counted, but the financial data was only included where available.

As a result the true income and cash holdings of military charities are likely to be higher than the Bureau’s figures.