What’s next for fundraising self-regulation?

It’s been a little over three weeks since I published my review of fundraising self-regulation. During this time I have spoken to many chief executives, fundraisers and other sector leaders about the review’s recommendations and its implications.

The minister for civil society, Rob Wilson, has accepted these recommendations in full and we are now moving to the implementation phase.

It is clear that this is an issue which affects not only the fundraising community but also the wider sector, and I have been pleased by the positive engagement with the ideas I have put forward by sector leaders.

In particular, there has been unequivocal agreement that we must collectively continue doing all we can to support the development of stronger governance; enabling more effective and informed oversight of fundraising by trustee boards and chief executives.

NCVO, for its part, will work alongside others to produce clear guidance to help boards and chief executives ensure they understand what is required of them and how they can best meet these requirements.

We will provide advice on how charities can strike the balance between their responsibility to support beneficiaries and their responsibility to act ethically and uphold their reputation in all activities, including fundraising.

Broad strokes

We now face the task of taking the recommendations made and turning them into reality. Earlier this week I co-hosted an initial meeting with the minister for civil society, Rob Wilson. The aim was to establish broad agreement on the direction of travel and set out proposals for implementation.

The three self-regulatory bodies (the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Association (PFRA)) were present, as well as the Charity Commission and representatives of some of the large fundraising charities.

It was a very positive meeting which highlighted the agreement on the need to address the public concerns that have emerged during the summer. To this end, the establishment of a new fundraising regulator will be the priority, and everyone in the room expressed their willingness to cooperate and work towards this objective.

Most importantly, it was agreed that the set up and operational costs of the new fundraising regulator will be covered by fundraising organisations.

Immediately after the fundraising regulator is established, the IoF has committed to transferring responsibility for the Code of Fundraising practice. In the meantime, both the IoF and the PFRA are making progress on a merger, with the aim of concluding by next autumn.

View a short report of this meeting

Working out the details

The initial discussion outlined above is clearly only the first step on a long road. In early November, there will be a full sector summit in order to discuss the recommendations and their implementation in greater detail. Details will be announced shortly.

The review deliberately left a number of issues open for discussion, including how the proposed ‘Fundraising Preference Service (FPS)’ should be set up and work in practice.

It was agreed that a working group will be established to take this recommendation forward and make proposals on how the FPS will operate. The group will undoubtedly need the combined expertise of a wide variety of organisations and I hope those with substantial expertise will come forward and help us shape the FPS in a way that is both manageable for charities and effective for donors.

Putting donors back in control of whether and how they are approached with fundraising requests will demonstrate charities’ commitment to a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship with their supporters, on whom they rely in order to do their good work.

The bigger picture

Many people I have spoken to have quite correctly made the link between the issues around fundraising and the broader reputational issues facing the charity sector. As Lord Hodgson, a previous reviewer of fundraising regulation, has noted, the charity sector is only as strong as its weakest link. Maintaining the trust and confidence of the public is a shared endeavour and one we must not take lightly.

NCVO and other representative bodies have a clear duty to lead and support this response. We will continue to make the case for a strong charity sector and ensure public trust and confidence in charities is maintained. Collectively, we should be unashamed in setting out the value of the charity sector. The work we do, the people and communities we help, are too important to do anything less.


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

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