Understanding Risk in the Charity Sector: Regulating for Risk

Posted on 8 October 2015 | Diarmuid McDonnell

Diarmuid McDonnell is a Doctoral Researcher attached to the Scottish Network for Third Sector Data.  His project uses administrative data from the Scottish charity regulator to undertsand and model risk in the sector.

Risk is an everyday part of charitable activity. Charities operate in dynamic organisational, political and social environments. Consequently, charities and the institutions tasked with their oversight are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their legitimacy. One of the core challenges facing regulators of this sector is ensuring that their action is appropriate, targeted and proportionate, and that they balance enforcement of legislative requirements against placing an undue burden on charitable organisations. To that end, adopting what is termed a ‘risk-based’ approach to regulation is becoming increasingly common in this and other sectors throughout the UK.


The first in a series of four on the topic of risk in the charity sector, my Research Summary Regulating For Risk outlines the core features of risk-based regulation and identify some of the challenges associated with this approach. This work is one of the outputs of a collaborative research project between the University of Stirling and the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). This PhD project examines how risk is operationalized by the regulator, and experienced by charities. It will explore the extent to which existing (or new) charity data could be used to measure risk and it will test whether these measures are an accurate reflection of the qualitative risk within charities.


If you would like to learn more about the project then please contact Diarmuid McDonnell, University of Stirling, diarmuid.mcdonnell@stir.ac.uk