People need a university degree to understand charity reports, research shows

20 Jun 2019 News

A university level of education is needed to understand most charities' annual reports, according to new research.

Writing for Civil Society Media's Charity Finance magazine, Precious Sithole, a former student at St Mary’s University in Twickenham, shared findings from her MA research into charity accounts.

For her research, Sithole, who is now founder and chief executive of accounting and consultancy social enterprise Social Practice ENT, used the Gunning Fog Index to analyse the readability of a sample of 191 charity’s annual reports.

The index works by summing up the total number of syllables and complex words that appear in each 100-word passage. The readability score it offers generally represents the level of education one would need to be able to read and fully comprehend the text.

Gunning Fog scores between 13 and 17 indicate that those reading the information would need a university level of education to be able to read and fully comprehend the text.

Sithole categorised the charities into “smallest large” charities with income between £500,000 and £1m (SLCs); “medium-sized large” charities with income between £1m and £5m (MLCs); and the “largest large” charities with income above £5m (LLCs).

She found that all sizes of charities’ accounts on average required a university level of education to understand them.

The average readability scores for LLCs, MLCs and SLCs were 14.54, 14.75 and 14.1 respectively.

By way of comparison, the Wall Street Journal has previously scored 10.8, while the British National Corpus had a score of 12.1.

Sithole said: “The average Gunning Fog scores of the charities are well above those of these relatively complex publications, which could be a hindrance to some stakeholder groups.”

Subscribers to Charity Finance magazine can read Precious Sithole’s full article here.

Civil Society Media's Charity Finance Week takes place in October and this year the theme is Accounts and Accountability. Find out more about the events taking place. 

 

 

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