Frequently Asked Questions

Charity Excellence - FAQs

With 40,000 members growing at a rate of 3,500 a month, the Charity Excellence Framework (CEF) is the largest and fastest growing UK charity community.  We are a free one-stop-shop for anything, any non profit needs.  The CEF enables you to quickly and easily identify your opportunities to achieve more, and our systems tap into and promote the huge collective expertise of the sector enabling you to find the funding, and free help, resources and data you need.  

We provide 8 online health checks, our huge information hub and interactive dashboard, plus our Funding Finder, Help Finder and Data Finder directories, the Quality Mark and AI bunnies that can answer 20,000 non profit questions, with 90% success.  The in-system bunny can also write funding bids, find policy templates for you and create and run ChatGPT prompts. Our user data is aggregated (anonymously) into the Charity Sector Data Store - Big Data for the charity sector.

"asks questions that make you think, and, crucially, provides resources to support the charity's continued drive for excellence. I recommend it to all charities". The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

How we support the charity sector

With the closure of the SCC, then the FSI, we are the last of the small charity infrastructure bodies that support all UK 'smalls'.  Our systems work for any non profit, but each is optimised for small charities and marginalised groups. 

What We've Achieved So Far

Our hugely successful #SurviveAndThrive campaign launched in Autumn 2022 and was the only comprehensive cost-of-living crisis support programme for UK charities.  We launched our first AI service in late 2022, the month after ChatGPT, and in June 2023 our Charity AI Steppingstones strategy to catalyse AI adoption across the sector. 

Operational Impact. With 40,000 members (Jan 23), growing at a rate of 3,500 a month, we are the largest and fastest growing UK charity community: nearly half rate us 10/10. We support tens of thousands of individuals annually, tens of thousands more charities and our charities support in excess of 10 million beneficiaries.   All credit for that is due to the charities themselves, not us, but supporting beneficiaries is what the sector exists to do, so that number is a key target for us. 

Strategic Impact.  We use our Big Data to provide data and insight for sector leaders.  We used this to inform our Covid response - our initial toolkits were downloaded 38,000 times.  And again during the cost-of-living crisis.  Our sector resilience forecast very accurately predicted the path of the crisis and identified key threats long before these materialised.       

“Undoubtedly, we would not still be here without this brilliant resource.  For smaller charities you are an absolute lifeline”.

Federation of Disability Sport Organisations 

What We're Going To Do Next - 2024/25

Charities remain very hard pressed and our charity sector resilience forecast indicates limited likelihood of recovery until 2025 - we must do more and we must do better.   We see meaningful sector level collaboration as a huge missed opportunity and AI as potentially the biggest opportunity for charities in years. 

The next step change will be to deploy CEF master systems to 100 CEF owners across the UK to create a single consistent objective UK charity data set.  We don't have the capacity, specialist expertise or influence to exploit our Charity Big Data, so we'll give it to those who do.  We will augment this with a significantly upgraded master dashboard and import external APIs to create predictive analytics that will take sector decision making to the cutting edge.  In 2025, we will finalise migrating our remaining non AI systems to create an AI concierge service.  A single incredibly simple to use gateway to everything in the UK non profit sector. 

However, we have no plans to build an empire and will remain a sector enabler and very small.  We will do that by bringing partners' functionality into the eco system and also 'outsource' ownership of key elements of the CEF functionality using our social franchising framework. The charity, supported by a sector strategic leadership group, will manage the social franchising network and develop our strategy.    

Web based and scalable at very low cost and, with the charity remaining very small, longer term costs are estimated to be circa £200k pa.  This will be funded by a small contribution by very large group users, sponsorship, advertising and other income. That is projected to generate revenue far in excess of our needs. 

How the CEF helps charities

Increasing Your Funding   Every one of our systems supports fundraising.  Assess your fundraising online in 30 minutes, with access to all the fundraising resources, including its 100+ downloadable funder lists.  Plus, its unique Funding Finder grants directory, Help Finder directory for companies that make donations and Data Finder for funding bids and fundraising research.  Looking for fundraising ideas or have a question about fundraising - ask an AI bunny.. 

An incredibly useful tool to broaden our search for funders during these challenging times. ...having a free resource like this available to us is a game changer.

Providing Assurance We're subject to a wide range of laws and regulations. You can’t be an expert in everything, but you don’t need to be, because the CEF enables you to quickly assess every area.  The dashboard reports 21 key metrics and the Critical Health Check table provides trustees with 'at a glance' oversight of key areas, including impact, sustainability, fundraising effectiveness, compliance and keeping people safe. 

CEF is a brilliant "everything in one place" help, for charity, their trustees, staff and volunteers, whether you need 'beginners level' or 'advanced'. 

Increasing Your Impact The dashboard Impact score reports how effectively you are maximising the impact you could have and identifies opportunities to achieve even more. 

All was really thought out well, massive impact. 

Can anyone use it?

Yes – it creates a unique set of questionnaires based on the individual needs of each user, including micro-charities, CICs and schools, and requires no expertise or training to use

Thought provoking and superb resources. Sunnyside Community


The 8 questionnaires enable you to assess every area of activity.  These are strategy, governance, income generation, risk, people, operations, finance & resources and communications.  These enable you to ask and answer all the questions you need to, including those you may not know about.

"The questionnaire identified issues I had never even considered”. Endcliffe Playgroup

Rate each questionnaire statement using a simple 5 star rating, then click next.  That’s all you have to do. You can health check your whole charity in half-a-day.

'The questions were very clear and helpful to understand the gaps and areas where we need to concentrate more’. MumsAid

Criteria1 star5 star
AchievementPoor, or not at allWe meet all aspects of the statement
ImportanceOf little, or no importanceCritical, or extremely important

Assessment statements

Jargon free descriptions of all aspects of performance – the resources available, activities undertaken, what these produce, the outcomes delivered, the impact created, and the overarching management and planning systems. 

Questions were very clear and easy to understand’  Justice is Now

How Do Statements Assess Critical People Factors?

We have very few resources, but one huge asset – our people, and they are the key to driving improved performance. It assess key issues, such as leadership, innovation, wellbeing, culture and decision making, by taking into account not only what is done, but who does it, how well, their capacity and expertise, and how motivated they are in doing so.

How Many Statements Are In Each Questionnaire?

Usually between 10 and 40, depending on the questionnaire, and your charity’s size, sector, where it operates and the activities it undertakes.


How Do I Use It?

There are 3 top-level dials, with 21 key areas of activity analysed in the tables below. Results are colour coded, so you can see at a glance where there is most scope to achieve more. Click any number to run a detailed report and access the huge resource base - it’s no more than 2 clicks to everything.

"The most concise yet simplistic Business Intelligence dashboard for Board and Charity leaders. Indispensable!"  Bike for Good

What Do The 3 Tables Assess?

The Governance & Leadership table displays the Charity Governance Code section headings, but the analysis works for any governance code. 

The Questionnaires table displays the results of 7 questionnaires. The income questionnaire results are in the Critical Health Check table.

The Critical Health Check enables you to easily identify any critical issues, so you can respond quickly to safeguard your charity. You can also use this to provide assurance to funders and others that your charity is well run. 

What Is Quality Management Reporting?

At the bottom of your dashboard, this shows your progress towards achieving the Charity Excellence Quality Mark.


Traffic lights

The system uses what you tell it to convert your results into your priorities for action, using a traffic light system.

CategoryWhat it means
Must DoSignificant opportunity to achieve more
Should DoOpportunity to achieve more
Could DoSome opportunity
Don’t DoLittle, if any opportunity

Quality mark

What are the benefits?

It demonstrates to funders and other stakeholders your commitment to excellence, provides assurance to trustees and recognition to your staff and volunteers for achieving this.

I’m delighted that we’ve gained the Quality Mark. It provides a structured but easily accessible way to review operations, locate gaps in operational excellence and, most importantly, be the best we can be for those that we support”. Herefordshire Mind

How Does It Work?

Once you have scored all 8 questionnaires, with a scoring rating of at least ‘Pass’, the QM will be displayed on your dashboard and you will be sent the QM logo. 

If your rating isn’t Pass (green indicator), rescore the questionnaire. Each assessment statement looks at an issue from several perspectives. Not do we have it, but is it working as well as it could be? We all tend to make assumptions (self-included), but if you don’t meet all of a statement’s criteria, or aren’t sure you do, it’s not a 5.  

You must score each questionnaire within the last 12 months to retain the QM. The QM reporting displays the date by which each questionnaire next needs to be scored and traffic light indicators will warn you, when you need to do so. 

If you don't, the system will automatically remove your quality mark. To requalify, rescore the relevant questionnaires.  

How Does It compare To Other Quality Marks?

It's free, it’s also automated, so you there’s no extra workload to achieve it and you're assessed using a framework created to meet your specific needs, not the normal one size fits all. Moreover, the assessment is ongoing, not once every few years, so funders and others can have confidence in it.  

“We worked through the questionnaires ourselves and achieved the Quality Mark for DSC (we're so proud!), so what are you waiting for?”  The Directory of Social Change

Diversity excellence standard

How Does It work?

As you score questionnaires, the CEF will automatically assess you using its Diversity Excellence Standard in a range of areas, from culture, to procedures, targets and outcomes, across your charity. Your results are reported on your dashboard. Click ‘Diversity’ to access your detailed results.

This is an amazing tool. 1000 out of 10. Race On The Agenda  

Query System

The query system makes answering difficult questions easy.  For example, ‘Tax Relief’ to find out what you’re not claiming (yet), ‘Funding Lists’ to find new funders, or to improve your ‘Website’, ‘Wellbeing’ or ‘Innovation’

It also saves you time and workload by enabling you to carry out management checks, respond to queries and identify opportunities, or issues, before these become problems. 

You can select multiple criteria, from the 100 available, including groups of people.  This short video (3 mins) shows you how it works. 

"Working through each section provided a great opportunity to think through what we have done and what extra we could do and, with the resources there, made this process really worthwhile". RUTS

Create and export reports

The ‘Export’ function saves time and reduces workload, by enabling you to download reports as action plans, for meetings or planning, or create reports for the Board, or others.

"Clear and logical approach that focuses us on what we are doing well and what we need to improve. The links to source material are great". Watford Sheltered Workshop Ltd


So user friendly and scope and clarity of questions were highly relevant. Access to supporting guidance and information was superb and thank you! Behind Every Kick

The CEF acts as an information hub that taps into and promotes the huge collective expertise of the sector.

It uses 1000s of resource links to connect you to organisations providing an enormous range of free guides, checklists, tools, templates and other resources. It also connects you to 100s of great organisations that provide everything from pro bono consultancy, mentoring, marketing and legal support to office accommodation, trustee recruitment, IT support and software; all free. There are so many resources and so much help available that it finds the ones you need for you.

The Funding Finder database works in the same way, by connecting you to 400+ other free funding databases and online funder lists , enabling you to click through to 100k+ funders globally.

"Fantastic resources." Anam Cara Fasgadh


Registering and Set-up

  • On trying to register - my organisation already exists. Someone has already registered your organisation.  They can add you to the account using the ‘Additional Users’ link on the left of their screen.  If you can't find out who it is, contact me.
  • The system won't accept my name. It can't accept any non-alphabetic characters or spaces, remove these. 
  • It tells me that my e mail already exists?  You are already a system user.  Login using your e mail and 'Forgotten Password', if you can't remember it. Your e mail is your account login, so you would need to use a different e mail, if you wish to have 2 accounts.   
  • I did not receive an account activation e mail. Check your spam folder.
  • On login – user does not exist. There are 2 reasons you may receive this message.
    • You have registered using another e mail address.
    • You registered and did not use your account. Unused accounts are deleted from time-to-time.
  • It won't accept my password. A password must contains at least 8 characters, including at least one number and both uppercase and lower letters, but with no special characters.
  • I’ve forgotten my password. Go to login and click ‘Forgot Password’.

To find out more about how Charity Excellence enables charities to improve impact, income and save money, watch this video (2 mins). and, or click the link for an introduction on how to use it (3 mins) or this one for how to get the most from the Funding Finder database (3 mins). 

If you still want help, call me on 07595 371 444 or e mail me at  

"..this has helped us to address the areas that we are not quite there, and it is amazing to have all the resources we need to support us in one place. I really can’t believe you have pulled this together single handedly. Thank you!" President, The Learned Society of Wales

Using The System

  • My set-up (My Profile) page won’t let me Save. The system uses what you tell it to create your unique questionnaires, but can’t do this until it has all the information needed.  Make at least one selection in each area.
  • I don’t know how to use a part of the system. There are ? symbols throughout the system. Click any of these, to find out what that area does and how to use it. Alternatively, click the CEF User Guide VideoFunder Guide Video for the database, or the FAQs link. All 3 are at the top of your screen.
  • The video versions of the guides are great, but where can I find all of them?  Go to the CEF You Tube channel and select a playlist. 
  • Why do I keep getting e mail reminders?  Some people register, but don't score questionnaires, which blocks others from their charity from joining. The system sends reminders, then deletes non-users.  Score questionnaires to stop these. 
  • There's an assessment statement for an activity that doesn't apply to us.  Select the 'Not Applicable' box, on the right, and the system will ignore this in your assessments. 
  • There questionnaires are very long, or there are activities we do that are missing. The system uses your My Profile page to create your questionnaires. Go to your page, click Create Questionnaires and amend this. You won’t lose the scores you’ve already entered, except those that no longer apply.
  • How do I download a report as an action plan?  Click the Export button.
  • There's a word or phrase I don't understand.  There shouldn't be, so let me know but, in the meantime, click the Charity Terms button at the top of your screen for an interactive list of 100s of charity and management terms, explained in plain English. 
  • Do I have to keep scoring questionnaires to find the resources?  No. Once a questionnaire has been scored, you can click the relevant score in your interactive dashboard or run a query. 
  • How do I find this guide again?  Click the Troubleshooting link on the left of your screen. 

Funding Finder Database

  • How can I get the most from the system?  Watch this short video
  • What are funding finders? The system has links to 400+ other free funding databases and online funder lists, giving you click through to a huge range of funders. 
  • How do I find core funders?  Select 'core funders' in the Category menu; there are 170+.  
  • How do I find the most recent funders?  The funders are updated every week.  Select New Additions, as a search category. 
  • Is there are list of all the funder lists and free funding finders on the system?  Yes, click here.  There are 50+.
  • How do I download the funder lists?  From the income questionnaire statement on finding new funders.  It has FUNDER LISTS typed into the text, so you can't miss it. 

Data protection

The system is hosted on a UK based Microsoft virtual machine, with SSL encryption.  Your data will never be sold commercially and will not routinely be disclosed to third parties without either your consent, or unless required to do so by law, but may be shared with non-profit partners who are working with me to develop and scale the CEF and they may contact you to make you aware of the charitable work they do. Full details are in the Privacy Statement and Terms & Conditions, available via the website links at the bottom of each web page. 

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We are very grateful to the organisations below for the funding and pro bono support they generously provide.

With 40,000 members, growing by 2000 a month, we are the largest and fastest growing UK charity community. How We Help Charities

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Charity Excellence Framework CIO

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United Kingdom
HP22 5JT
charity number: 1195568
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