Fundraising regulation reviews published

Both reviews of sector self-regulation of fundraising, for Scotland and for the UK, have published their reports today (23rd September). Unsurprisingly there is a large amount of media coverage and sector commentary.

In Scotland

Charities should design new, simpler system

The review was led by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. They have published three items online:

SCVO’s media release is titled ‘Charities must take responsibility for fundraising in Scotland‘. Their CEO says:

“Everything charities do hinges on public trust, so it’s absolutely critical that we sit up and listen to what people are telling us. We can and must do better.

“Self-regulation is still the best way to oversee fundraising in Scotland but we need a much simpler approach. Charities and their trustees should take the lead in designing a new system of self-regulation.

“The review has given us a useful overview of the issues around fundraising. Now we want to see charities and other third sector organisations come together to find the answers to these challenges, and to set out a much more rigorous approach to self-regulation which everyone can trust.”

Secondly, SCVO fundraising review, August 2015: report on survey findings.

Thirdly, the full report ‘The effectiveness of the self-regulation of fundraising in Scotland: an informal review‘. There are 12 recommendationssee section 7 – which include

  • Charities should take ownership of fundraising in Scotland in order to maintain public trust in fundraising, and not delegate this to fundraisers.
  • Trustees should take greater strategic control over fundraising.
  • Complaints processes must be redesigned in order to empower the public and trustees.
  • New reporting processes are required that deliver greater openness and transparency about the operation of charities.

Third Force News coverage: SCVO is to now lead a consultation on what shape increased regulation will take in Scotland and is expected to report back later in the year with its findings.

The Etherington Review

The review requested by the Westminster government was led by Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO. NCVO’s press release is titled ‘Tough new fundraising regulator to ensure high standards‘. Saying that the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has been ineffective,

The proposed (replacement) Fundraising Regulator would be better funded by charities and have strong links with the Charity Commission and Information Commissioner to ensure charities followed its rules. It would have control over the rules charities must follow and would prioritise the public interest. All charities that spend over £100,000 a year on fundraising from the public, around 2,000 organisations, would be expected to contribute to the costs of the regulator.

Charities registered with the new regulator would be able to use a kitemark to show that they adhere to the rules.

Charity governance and other key issues

Stuart Etherington’s short overview on the NCVO website includes a link to the report ‘Regulating fundraising for the future: Trust in charities, confidence in fundraising regulation’. A key quote from the page:

The crisis of trust we face is not simply a fundraising issue, it is a governance issue. Our review has therefore concluded that trustees need a clearer view and a stronger hand on the fundraising tiller.

The Guardian has a short summary ‘Charity fundraising review: key points for the voluntary sector‘. Civil Society News piece on ‘key recommendations’ is a bit longer.

One key area appears to be the suggestion of ‘universality’ – with any organisation that carries out fundraising activities falling under the jurisdiction of the fundraising regulator, regardless of whether it has registered or indicated in any other way that it agrees to comply with its adjudications. The review does recognise that

Care needs to be taken to ensure proportionality.  Small fundraising organisations carrying out low level of fundraising activities should not be disproportionately burdened (page 44).

Global opt-outs

Another obvious issue is the practicalities in setting up the proposed ‘Fundraising Preference Service’, to allow people to opt out of receiving fundraising communications. It would be overseen by the new regulator, and oblige charities to stop sending fundraising requests or making phone calls to those who have opted out. Also see this critique from Ian MacQuillin at fundraising thinktank Rogare: ‘For beneficiaries’ sakes, don’t allow people to opt out of even being asked to help them‘.

Reactions and next steps

As reported in Civil Society News coverage, a summit is expected to be held urgently to set up the new regulator. It says the regulator should be in existence within six months of today, and the FRSB should continue to regulate in the meantime.

UK Fundraising has a round-up of reactions – sector and beyond. Stephen Lee, Professor at Cass Business School and former chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, has written ‘Three cheers for bold charity fundraising reform‘, on The Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network. There is also a CharityBlog Storify collecting Twitter reaction – or check Twitter hashtag #fundraisingreview.

Code of Practice update

The Institute of Fundraising has also just announced changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice, which it currently controls. Under the Etherington proposals, responsibility for the Code would go to the new Regulator.

The changes include only being able to pass on donor data to third parties with express consent, and making it easier for donors to opt-out of receiving future communications. See the Institute’s news item, or Civil Society News article.