Who Funds You?

Who Funds You report cover

Who Funds You report cover

Frequently asked questions

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.

What methodology do you use?
Since 2022, openDemocracy has used the same methodology that was used for the last audit in 2018. Once each think tank was given a preliminary grade we also contacted them in advance so that they could confirm we had not missed any information. Each grade was reviewed by at least two people at openDemocracy. Any that were challenged by Think Tanks, or otherwise ambiguous were reviewed by more than two people. You can download details of the methodology here.

Did openDemocracy receive any funding to re-launch Who Funds You?
No, openDemocracy did not receive any funding specifically for this project. openDemocracy is supported by thousands of people who make regular small donations to keep us going. If you want to help support this project and our wider work, you can find out more about supporting us here.

How do you know organisations are telling the truth?
We don't. We simply ask organisations to make a voluntary disclosure. Where we can we may cross-reference with public disclosures some organisations must make by law, but we are not in a position to undertake extensive verification checks. If you believe an organisation has been less than truthful, please contact us in confidence.

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.

Read our 2022 report for more detailed recommendations. You can get it by filling in the form above.

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 in our methodology document.

Where we have uncovered evidence that donors have used opaque structures to fund a UK think tank and we believe there to be a public interest in reporting it we may publish a story on it. We will link to this reporting in the think tank's Who Funds You? entry if it provides useful additional context for readers. We may also link to credible 3rd party sources if we assess them as providing useful context for readers.

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.

Who funds openDemocracy?
You can find out more about how openDemocracy is funded on our own transparency page.

Why isn't there a Who Funds You? grade for openDemocracy?
openDemocracy isn't a think tank. openDemocracy is a news media organisation. We don't think it would be very credible for us to award a transparency grade to ourselves.

Did openDemocracy pay any money for the Who Funds You? project assets?
Between 2012 and 2019 the Who Funds You project was run by volunteers. The branding assets and social media accounts associated with the project were given to openDemocracy for free when we offered to relaunch the project in 2022.

Who runs openDemocracy?
You can find out more about the people who run openDemocracy here.

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