Who Funds You? promotes funding transparency among think tanks and political campaigns with a strong public policy or research focus. We ask organisations to publish their annual income and declare their major funders.
What is your editorial stance?
Who Funds You? takes no editorial position beyond that of promoting funding transparency. We comment only on whether organisations declare their major funders – not on the type or sources of funding.
Who funds you?
We receive no funding, though may seek funding to expand in the future – which we will naturally disclose here.
Who runs you?
The website was set up by participants of the Political Innovation project, set up to help improve understanding of how democracy works in a changing world. It is independent, non-partisan and managed on a voluntary basis by a steering group comprising: Clifford Singer (Who Funds You? director and creative director at Social Spark), Karin Christiansen (board chair at Open Knowledge and former managing director of Publish What You Fund), Paul Evans (founder of Political Innovation) and Dr Andy Williamson (director of Democratise and former director of digital democracy at the Hansard Society).
Why does funding transparency matter?
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.
Isn't funding transparency just one of several criteria for judging openness or accountability?
Yes – and factors such as governance and research methodology matter too. But funding transparency is a central issue – and without it only more limited progress can be made in those other areas.
Don't think tanks have a responsibility to funders to preserve their anonymity?
As organisations engaged in public advocacy, their responsibility to be accountable and transparent must come first. As think tanks increasingly take an important role in formulating government policy, it is important for a strong democracy that they are transparent about their own agenda and where their funding comes from. This is particularly the case in light of increased scrutiny of political party funding.
But an organisation that has promised anonymity in the past cannot simply break that promise, can it?
At the very least such an organisation can approach past funders to ask them to agree to be named, and – more importantly – pledge to name future major funders.
Is there ever a case for preserving funder anonymity?
Yes – if, for instance, an individual's personal safety would be put at risk. In the UK this is likely to occur only in exceptional circumstances.
What can we do if think tanks and public policy campaigns refuse to disclose their funders?
Ultimately this is less about campaigns and think tanks than the journalists, civil servants and politicians that listen to or write about them. We call for a more probing approach to organisations that refuse transparency. In particular we want a level playing field: if a journalist describes a more transparent organisation as "industry-funded" or "trade union-funded", then they should not unthinkingly repeat an opaque organisation's claim to be "independent". At the very least journalists should draw attention to this imbalance. Anything less is unfair to those think tanks and campaigns that are upfront about their funding.
How do you know organisations are telling the truth?
We don't. We simply ask organisations to make a voluntary disclosure, and, as a small, volunteer-run project, are not in a position to verify this. But if you believe an organisation has been less than truthful, please contact us in confidence.
What happens if a think tank or campaign is funded by another organisation that is not transparent? Do you investigate that?
At the moment we only ask organisations to name their funders, but do not investigate those funders too. However, we do add some special conditions when awarding higher ratings – see the note on our methodology page.
What can funders do?
Funders should insist on transparency – and many do. Besides anything else, responsible funders have an interest in knowing the company they keep by supporting a particular organisation, and should move their money away from those that won't say.
Is Who Funds You? linked to the global transparency campaign, Transparify?
We are separate, but fully endorse Transparify's work – find out more.
In their own words…
"We regularly sit down face to face with Ministers and their teams, to see where we can drive changes in policy. Our status as expert witnesses has also been recognised through our appearances at many Select Committees this year."
"Building from our origins in the late 1990s, [Policy Network] has become an unrivaled international point-of-contact between political thinkers and opinion formers, serving as a nexus between the worlds of politics, academia, public policymaking, business, civil society and the media."
"Regular Power Lunches offer Adam Smith Institute supporters the chance to meet with leading players in Wesminster. Prompted by the inimical impact of overregulation, 2010 saw the heads of all the major regulators pass through the Institute's doors."
Adam Smith Institute
"[Policy Exchange] bestrides the policy landscape like a colossus."
Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office