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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A critical period in charity fundraising

This opinion piece is over 8 years old

​Institute of Fundraising Scotland's Fraser Hudghton argues that these are critical days for the survival of fundraising in Scotland.

Stories about fundraising aren’t hard to come by these days. The summer of 2015 has seen an onslaught, well beyond our sector news, on the kinds of working practices only fundraisers before knew anything about.

Coupled with the Etherington review, prompted by an intervention from the prime minister, and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) review north of the border, the fundraising industry has been under forensic scrutiny.

The suggested outcomes of the Etherington review do not sit easily with the one commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried forward by SCVO. Even at first glance there are clear delineations in tone and proposed solutions.

Etherington’s paper hits hard - fundraising techniques and structures which have long been a familiar part of the landscape may now be facing endgame.

Only a glimpse at comments pages on public news sites will demonstrate that public goodwill towards charities can no longer be taken for granted.

Fraser Hudghton

We may now be penalised for practices which feature little in our Scottish fundraising landscape

Fraser Hudghton

As Scotland’s biggest individual fundraisers membership body we need to ask ourselves the question “what should Scotland’s charity fundraising landscape look like in the future?” and “where do we fit in?” Our members need to be asking themselves these questions too.

Etherington’s report will be taken up in full by the UK parliament. In Scotland, the SCVO report offered a cautionary approach to radical changes in how we regulate fundraising but didn't provide a clear alternative vision on how to proceed.

We have therefore been presented with a scenario from Westminster of an entirely new fundraising regulatory framework, with an extraordinarily tight timescale to turn it around.

Scotland’s third sector must ask itself immediately if it is comfortable with Etherington’s proposals and all they entail.

If the answer is no then pressure must be brought to bear on the Scottish Government to act, and to do so fast.

Many fundraising tactics this summer have received a thorough beating in a very public setting because of the sector’s collective unwillingness to stand forward and make itself heard.

In many ways this demonstrates that fundraisers are getting on with raising money for vital causes and they don't have a minute to spare.

On the other hand if we choose to accept a narrative which has bells attached and of which we as a sector now have limited control - then you can wave goodbye to a number of fundraising methods currently taken as a given.

Fundraisers, trustees and charities across Scotland must ask themselves - have we successfully aligned our organisations with the public mood and can we count on it?

We have a very strong record in Scotland of giving, higher than the UK average, and yet we may now be penalised for practices which feature little in our Scottish fundraising landscape.

The weeks and months immediately ahead of us are critical for the survival of charity fundraising as we know it.

Fraser Hudghton is national manager of the Institute of Fundraising in Scotland.