A review of fundraising self-regulation

Visit the review webpage to see the terms of reference and consultation questions.

Charities have repeatedly been in the news following the sad death of volunteer fundraiser Olive Cooke. That such an inspiring, committed supporter of charity died as she did is a tragedy for her family and friends.

Despite a statement from her family that communication from charities did not cause her to take her own life, the issues raised have clearly hit a nerve.

For the media, parliament and the wider public, charities are very much in the dock. This has frankly been a terrible week in media terms. Investigations, indeed revelations, of poor or aggressive fundraising calls have shocked not just the public, but also many people who work for charities.

It is not simply enough to blame sections of the media: senior journalists in newspapers traditionally supportive of charities tell us that their postbags are full of complaints about fundraising.

As a sector, we need to take action so that the public retain their confidence in us.

The review

I have therefore agreed to a request from the minister for civil society, Rob Wilson, to lead a review of fundraising self-regulation. The review will take evidence from many stakeholders – including those representing vulnerable groups – in order to identify what changes are required to rebuild public trust in fundraising by charities.

As part of our work, we will look at approaches to regulation in other areas, with a goal of identifying changes that will substantially strengthen the current system.

The review panel will have representation from the different political parties.

The minister has asked me to report back by mid-September.

Action must follow

A review in and of itself will not lead to change. We will need to make clear recommendations, with a timetable for implementation, and those recommendations will need the support of fundraising charities in particular.

My judgement is that this is an opportunity for charities to show leadership and to demonstrate to the public that they can put their own house in order, so I would urge all those with an interest to engage with the review.

It is crucial to get fundraising right

Finally, I wish to be clear that charity fundraising has never been more important. Many charities are in a tight financial position, still dealing with the increased demand for their services prompted by the economic downturn of recent years.

This is why it is particularly crucial that we get fundraising right. We cannot afford to jeopardise charities’ fundraising now or in the future. We must find sustainable solutions that can ensure the public continues to have faith in charities in the long term – that is what I aim to do.

If you would like to contact me about this review, you can comment here, or email me on tell@ncvo.org.uk.

Visit the review webpage to see the terms of reference and consultation questions.

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Stuart Etherington Sir Stuart Etherington was chief executive of NCVO from 1994 to 2019.