Penny Crossland My Favourite Tipples from a due diligence researcher
Jinfo Blog

Wednesday, 22nd August 2018

By Penny Crossland


My Favourite Tipples are shared by Penny Crossland of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and director of CH Business Research Ltd, an investigative research consultancy specialising in open source intelligence. She shares go-to sources for the non-profit sector in Asia and Africa.


I spend part of my working week at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where my tasks include providing due diligence reports on potential and existing philanthropic donors - individuals, trusts, corporations or governments - in order to prevent reputational damage to the university. Many of the sources I use in my work are the same as the ones I access for my investigative research business, but there are some sites that are specifically useful for the non-profit and philanthropic sector and for the regions specific to SOAS: Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

  • GuideStar India: An initiative of Civil Society Information Services India, this is a database of around 10,000 Indian-registered charities, trusts and foundations, segmented by 13 causes, such as education, animal welfare, the disabled and healthcare. Each entry provides information that includes the entity's profile, programmes, financial status and contact details. The data provided can be patchy, however it helps to confirm an organisation's identity, which is the first step in providing a more comprehensive profile.

  • Transparency International: This global and well-respected anti-corruption organisation is best known for its corruption reports by topic and industry, and its corruption perception indices by region and country. It also produces special reports on topics such as governance monitoring and cryptocurrencies. The indices are supplemented by in-depth reports covering all aspects of political corruption by country, including elections, party financing and asset declaration required by public officials. I find these useful in building a picture of a country's standing in the world, which form part of the decision-making process on whether or not to accept funding offered towards educational scholarships.

  • Asian Philanthropy Forum: Some of my work overlaps with the kind of information used by prospect researchers. This site is one that is useful for both research functions. It is produced by a US philanthropy advisory firm called Kordant and provides information on all aspects of philanthropy in Asia, including on individuals and organisations, on law and policy in specific countries and on current issues, such as the growth of social enterprises. I use this site for information on individual donors and trustees, to help me compile my profiles.

  • Open Charities: This site is an initiative by OpenCorporates Ltd, the organisation that produces The intention is to open up data from the UK's Charities Register and present it in a more transparent form than that provided on the official register's website. There are rankings of the biggest charities by income or by spending and it is possible to sort charities by the date they were registered. There are limitations: currently, the site only has information on charities registered in England and Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland data yet to be added. Also, from my point of view it would be great to be able to search for trusteeships by individuals, but for now this is a useful first port of call for anybody wanting to analyse UK charity data.

For fun:

  • Time Out London: Living close to the centre of London, our guest room is popular with friends and family living elsewhere in and outside the UK, especially at this time of year. To help visitors make the most of what London has to offer, I recommend Time Out's London guide for the latest information on events, such as outdoor shows or theatres, for museum opening times and tips on where to eat and drink.

    What I like most about Time Out is that it also provides information on places worth seeing that are off the usual tourist trail. There is a guide to London's hidden gardens and green spaces, such as SOAS's Japanese Roof Garden or the wonderful Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park and a list of top secret things to see, such as a house in Kensington unchanged inside since 1900.

An article in Jinfo I found particularly interesting:

  • Finding accurate and current information on African countries can be challenging, so I found Colin Smith's article "Insider Knowledge - Researching Central Africa" very useful. This includes a list of international agencies that provide data and analysis on the region, as well as links to government agencies and most importantly, to media sites by country.


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