This website uses cookies for anonymised analytics and for account authentication. See our privacy and cookies policies for more information.

The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Charity think-tanks named in report on funding transparency

This news post is 7 months old

Investigative platform openDemocracy published its Who Funds You? project. 

Charity think-tanks have been named as part of an investigation into funding transparency. 

openDemocracy published earlier this week the latest round of its Who Funds You? project, investigating UK think tanks and campaigns and rating for funding transparency. 

The project initially ran from 2012 - 2019, with openDemocracy now relaunching the project with a series of new audits.

This latest report shows an increase in what they term as “opaque” funding which they reveal now stands at £25million a year.

openDemocracy raised the alarm in particular over the lack of transparency in more than half of the most influential UK based organisations, and highlighted serious concerns over what is termed “dark money”. 

Writing on the rating, openDemocracy said: “At their best, think tanks and public policy campaigns make a valuable contribution to political life, generating new ideas and producing important research.

“At their worst, they can provide a neutral front while actually working on behalf of vested interests. As organisations that exert influence on public life, it is right that we call think tanks to account and ask for a basic level of transparency.”

Organisations are rated on a scale from A to E, with A being the most transparent, and organisations given an E grade the least transparent about their funding.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), who are run as a charity, received the highest rating, as did fellow registered charities the New Economics Foundation, Resolution Foundation, The Bevan Foundation, Centre for Health and the Public Interest, and the Institute of Welsh Affairs. 

B ratings were awarded to the Centre for Cities, Centre for London, Chatham House, Demos, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Institute for Government, Reform, and the Social Market Foundation. 

The Royal United Services Institute were awarded a C rating, while British Future, the Institute of Economic Affairs, and the Jimmy Reid Foundation were rated at a D by openDemocracy. 

However, a number of concerns were raised about think-tanks formed as charities. 

The Adam Smith Institute, Civitas, Global Warming Policy Foundation, Legatum Institute, Policy Exchange, the Scottish Independence Convention, and The Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics were all given the lowest rating of E by the investigative journalism platform. 

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman welcomed the new report which calls for more scrutiny of funding to think tanks with high levels of influence over politics.

Ms Chapman, economy and justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, says she is supporting their calls that would see think tanks forced to register as lobbyists if they receive more than £85,000 of funding from single sources.

Seeking more scrutiny from the Charity Commission, having more checks and due diligence on information provided with organisations who are not fully transparent about funding and looking at foreign income sources, have also been backed. 

She said: “It is very concerning that any organisation can have high levels of influence on politics and democracy when they clearly fail to be open about their funding.

“Migration Watch and the Taxpayers Alliance, to name just two, are identified in this new investigation as among those with significant influence who are being far less than transparent about who is funding their work.

“Perhaps what is most striking about this investigation is that left wing bodies have very high levels of transparency, while right wing organisations do not. It is correct we ask why that is and challenge it. 

“This is an important, necessary and strikingly detailed report from investigators at openDemocracy, who are to be congratulated for shining a light on dark money and the need for reform over think tank funding.”