Scottish solutions to Scottish fundraising issues?
The future of fundraising in Scotland must be decided here, leading charities have said.
Organisations fear a knee jerk reaction down south in the wake of recent fundraising scandals could create stricter rules for Scotland, despite public confidence being higher north of the border.
It comes after the umbrella organisation for the third sector in England and Wales called for the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) to be replaced by a stronger, more effective regulator.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ (NCVO) review was also critical of the Institute of Fundraising’s Standards Committee, and recommends moving its responsibilities to the new watchdog.
But John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), warned that a solution for England and Wales isn’t necessarily a solution for Scotland and Scots' charities must now decide for themselves - and said Scottish third sector organisations must take ownership of the issue and decide what sort of framework they want to work within.
SCVO is to lead a consultation with third sector organisations on self-regulation in Scotland and report its findings later in the year.
This process could effectively shape the sector, said Downie, and enable Scotland to go it alone.
Far more donors are asking what we are doing to protect their data
He said: “The crucial issue is that we do not want regulation imposed. Public confidence in charities is higher in Scotland. We’ve had our own fundraising issues here and to a large extent that has shaped the current regime.
“The atmosphere in England just now is very different from that in Scotland and the danger is draconian reforms there will be imposed here.
“So we need to work towards a Scottish solution. We’ll ask charities what they want and we’ll consult extensively. But it’s crucial we take this opportunity to shape our own self-regulation.”
The call is being backed by two leading Scottish charities, which asked not to be identified, both of which rely heavily on public donations.
They told TFN they fear draconian measures could be imposed down south in the light of recent scandals.
One, which does its own in house fundraising, said it was already seeing a backlash from the “caustic” atmosphere in England.
“Far more donors are asking what we are doing to protect their data, whether we pass it on etc,” its spokesman said. “They still want to give but they want more assurances that their donations are safe.”
Another major charity said feedback from its supporters overwhelmingly showed they wouldn’t be happy with English-imposed regulation.
“Even though self-regulation here will in effect be very close to whatever England creates, there is a desire that there is a framework that is exclusively Scottish.
“It’s the whole devolution thing – our donors don’t want what they judge as Westminster-imposed laws affecting what happens up here.”
A recent SCVO survey into fundraising attitudes in Scotland showed that for most respondents trust in charities had not changed, despite a spate of negative stories emanating from the English press.
Colin Flinn, head of fundraising at Poppyscotland, which is reliant on public support, said all charities must do their utmost to reassure their donors and meet expectations, particularly in light of reports of bad practice.
He said: “There is a need for change, however we believe the answer is not to introduce a new regulator but instead to strengthen the existing structures and systems to make them more robust and effective in enforcing regulations.”
Fundraising in Scotland – what you think
Trust in charity fundraising remains high in Scotland but has seen a drop in the last year, according to research from the ScottishCouncil for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
While some of this loss is due to negative personal experiences of fundraising, the main driver has been negative stories in the media, the report of the research findings states.
The research involved a survey of fundraisers, third sector staff, volunteers and interested members of the public. It was used to help inform the SCVO review of fundraising in Scotland.
The majority of complaints about fundraising were linked to a small number of larger charities or contracted agencies, while there were also examples given of smaller charities involved in minor infringements of fundraising practices.
Most members of the public have never heard of the UK’s fundraising regulators, such as the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association. Their preferred route for complaint was to the Office
of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) or the police.
Many people also said they wouldn’t complain at all but would just not donate to the charity in the future.
The research did uncover an appetite for reform within the charity fundraising environment, however many stressed the need to avoid a “knee-jerk” response to recent scandals, including the Olive Cooke case.
It was felt that larger charities should be subject to greater regulation and encouraged to sign up to a code of standards and avoid unpopular fundraising techniques.
Smaller charities should also be supported to be more aware of good practice and encouraged to become members of relevant bodies like the Institute of Fundraising.
People also felt it should be easier for the general public to raise concerns about charity fundraising and that they should know how to do this.
The report concluded the general preference was for thecreation of a regulatory environment that promotes good practice, as opposed toa reactive, complaints-driven process.