What NCVO thinks about a new draft Code of Fundraising Practice

The Fundraising Regulator (FR) has been consulting on a new, redrafted Code of Fundraising Practice, and the consultation closed on Friday 16 November.

The FR inherited the code from the Institute of Fundraising and it’s changed gradually over the years. As a result, all sides agree there’s a lot of repetition and unnecessary complexity in the current code and the FR has been looking into tidying it up, removing unnecessary rules and making it easier to use. NCVO has been looking at the draft code and responded to the consultation today. These are our main thoughts.

Overall: simpler, clearer and more consistent is better

Generally, we think the new draft is a good thing and should help make things easier for charities. By making the code shorter and removing duplication, the burden of compliance should go down. We have  mainly made suggestions for improvement rather than calling for a radical shift in approach.

The draft separates general rules relating to fundraising from rules relating to specific fundraising practices in the new contents page. We think this makes sense – but in practice many people will go straight to the section relevant to the particular activity they are planning. We’d therefore like to see those sections include cross-referencing to the most relevant sections of the general guidance. We’d also like the new introduction to offer some more explicit guidance about how to use the code.

We’ve also heard from some charities that the length of the table of contents could be shorter. The new code would mainly be used online, so navigation solutions (expandable menus, for instance) could help with this.

Finally: the FR’s aim isn’t to actually change the rules – just to simplify their presentation and wording. But we think there are some areas where the draft code might actually make some concrete changes to the current rules.

For instance, we’re not sure that deleting the rule requiring that neither the fundraiser nor the organisation be left out of pocket doesn’t change the overall meaning: the new draft doesn’t seem to cover ensuring the fundraiser is not left out of pocket. We think any concrete changes to the rules should be dealt with, and consulted on, separately.

A new glossary: useful, but could be clearer

We welcome the inclusion of an introduction to clarify what the Code is for and how it should be used. We would welcome more explicit guidance about how to use the code, which – combined with cross-referencing from sections on specific fundraising practices to the most relevant parts of the general fundraising rules – would, we think, help fundraisers to work with the Code as intended. We also think it would be helpful to make a more prominent reference to the fact that there is a glossary within the introduction.

There are also some definitions which we think could be clearer. To take one example, the definition of ‘benevolent fundraiser’ uses the word ‘benevolent’ itself and to raising income for the charity. The wording is also slightly different to that used in one of the rules in the code. Unless there is a real legal need, we’d say it would be better to have the same meaning throughout the code.

The role of the regulator: questions to ask

We also wanted to comment on the plans to delete the rule which currently requires fundraisers and agents to be trained to the Institute of Fundraising’s required standards. We’re not objecting to this specific change as such, but we wanted to pick up on the regulator’s reasons: “As a regulator we cannot require or endorse the training regime of any specific organisation where we have no input into the quality or standards maintained”.

We think this reasoning could be at odds with one of the principles of self-regulation. Self-regulation should obviously be robust – and we were at the forefront of calls to make it more robust in 2015 – but it’s meant to be a more co-operative approach than statutory regulation. So, although we’re not objecting to deleting the requirement, we’ve got some questions about the specific rationale.

Implementation: give charities time to adjust

Even though the aim isn’t to change the substance of the code, we know fundraisers have worked with the existing code for a long time and will need some time to become accustomed to the new one. We also know that fundraising has been through a lot of regulatory change over the past couple of years – GDPR has had a particularly big impact over the past few months. We think it’s important to make sure fundraisers have enough time to adjust before moving to the new code, especially where they need to update training materials and internal policies which reference or are designed to be used with the existing code.

 

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Douglas Dowell Douglas Dowell is one of NCVO's senior policy officers, working mainly on charity law and regulation.

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