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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Give a single body the power to regulate fundraising

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Susan Smith believes the fundraising industry has to take full responsibility for recent scandals and create a single, powerful regulatory body

The Fundraising Standards Boards (FRSB) interim report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Olive Cooke and subsequent complaints about charity fundraising has some welcome recommendations, but the fundraising community must go further.

The report focuses on recommendations for the strengthening of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) Code of Practice, which is currently under review, including ensuring the public have more chances to opt out of contacts and that fundraising firms have less wiggle room when it comes to targeting elderly people or those who have asked not to be contacted.

A total of 384 public complaints were made to the FRSB following Olive Cooke’s death, 42% of people complained about the frequency of asks while 16% were confused over opting in and opting out.

That means radical reform, not just the touching up of a code which has enabled fundraising firms to justify hard sell pressure tactics

To be honest, anyone who has donated to charity over the last few years knows that the extent of the problem is far greater than this level of complaint would suggest. The media attention is a far greater indication of public mood and suggests people feel powerless in the face of ongoing harassment – Olive Cooke, for example, took her story to her local media to little affect.

This powerlessness is only touched on in the FRSB report in its focus on charity’s adherence to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and its admission that “it is clear that the service is not working the way that people expect it to”. Perhaps, however, if the FRSB’s profile were as high, donors would not put so much faith in the TPS.

Fundraising rules and regulation are drowning in confusion. The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) has done a good job of cleaning up street fundraising, but is only beginning to make inroads into other face-to-face methods, the IoF is responsible for creating a code of practise for all fundraising but complaints have to be made to the FRSB.

The UK charity sector cannot afford more fundraising scandals. The fundraising community needs to take full responsibility for the situation that it currently finds itself in, and that means radical reform, not just the touching up of a code which has enabled fundraising firms to justify hard sell pressure tactics.

It’s time to let go of old territory and create a single fundraising regulatory force that has the power and force to clean up fundraising for good.



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Ian MacQuillin
over 7 years ago
Even if the IoF, FRSB and PFRA were rolled up into one body, that wouldn't mean there was one organisation regulating the whole of fundraising as there would still be several other organisations regulating their own domains in fundraising, including: ASA (charity advertising); ICO (charity digital marketing); PhonepayPlus (charity premium SMS).Fundraising self-reg is really not that complicated or confusing. It's the same system that operates in many professions and occupations: the organisation that investigates breaches of the rules (in our case the FRSB) is independent of organisation that makes the rules (IoF). This is the same system that operates in advertising, where the Committee of Advertising Practice sets the codes, while complaints are directed to the the Advertising Standards Authority, which adjudicates on breaches of the codes. Nobody is saying that system is confusing or calling for ASA and CAP to be replaced by a single regulator.It's a strength of the self-regulatory regime that self-regulation is split between two bodies. If anything, this ought to increase public trust and confidence in fundraising. How confident would you be in a fundraising body that investigated breaches of its own rules?Ian MacQuillin Director, Rogare - The Fundraising Think Tank Plymouth University