Information held by Buckingham Palace on the royal family's patronages of charities is “inconsistent and incomplete, and very confusing,” according to Caroline Fiennes from the research consultancy Giving Evidence.
Giving Evidence works to encourage charitable giving to be based on sound evidence, and has been researching whether royal patronages produce any benefit to UK charities, and if so in what regard. For example, benefits might be in terms of revenue, staff morale or media profile.
The royal family's website lists more than 3,000 organisations as having a working member of the royal family as their patron or president. These include well-known charities, such as the Natural History Museum, as well as grassroots organisations.
Fiennes suggests that this figure is almost certainly wrong as there are “conflicting lists on various websites” with information that is “markedly different”.
Giving Evidence found it “extremely difficult to identify the patronages which are of UK registered charities,” she said. The royals also have patronages of other types of organisation, such as parts of the military and other non-profits.
Giving Evidence asked Buckingham Palace for a list of Royal patronage, in a usable format such as a spreadsheet, but the palace said that it does not have one.
The royal family’s website presents a drop-down list of royals who have patronages, and the list of patronages held by each royal. However, Giving Evidence has discovered a number of discrepancies.
For example, Prince Charles’ patronages, as listed on the royal family's website, differ from those listed on his own official website. Giving Evidence found around 20 discrepancies of his charity patronages.
Giving Evidence found similar issues with Prince Andrew, who has a separate website unique to him. For example, the royal family's website lists him as patron of The Friends of the Imperial War Museum, which is not on the list of his patronages on his website. Giving Evidence found more than 35 such discrepancies of his charity patronages.
Fiennes has said the task of finding which royal is a patron of which charity has been “unbelievably complicated” and “onerous”, when this is basic management information.
“Given that patronages are a good proportion of the work of the royals, who are publicly-funded, they should surely be clearer,” she said.
She added: “Perhaps they don’t know which royal is patron of what, or they don’t want the public to know.”
Fiennes said: “We are still unable to isolate the UK registered charity patronages despite having now spent at least four-person-weeks on it. Hence the numbers often quoted in the press about the number of charities which various Royals are patrons are almost certainly wrong.
“For example, the Prince of Wales’ website lists him as patron of 'The Reserve Forces Ulysses Trust', whereas the royal.uk site lists him as patron of 'Ulysses Trust. We think that these are the same thing, but cannot know, and the Royals between them have hundreds of such patronages which would need cross-checking.”
The full research is expected to be published at Easter.