The Cabinet Office is to review its guidelines on solicitation statements for telephone and face-to-face fundraising next year.
Ben Harrison, senior policy adviser at the Cabinet Office, told Third Sector the government planned to start work on reviewing the guidance on the statements next year, in response to Lord Hodgson’s recommendation in his 2012 review of the Charities Act 2006.
In August, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on telephone fundraising highlighted what it claimed were questionable practices at the fundraising agencies Pell & Bales and NTT Fundraising, including telling donors only after they had agreed to donate that part of their money would go to the agencies.
Harrison said the department was likely to consult the Institute of Fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board, the Charity Law Association and other agencies about the review. "What we can’t do in the guidance is create new requirements that don’t exist in the law," he said. "The Charities Act 1992 doesn’t say at what point during the course of an ask a statement needs to be made. Ultimately, that is something that the courts would decide."
Harrison said he was not aware of anyone being prosecuted for a lack of compliance in this area.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said in a statement: "The government stated its intention last year to produce further guidance on solicitation statements. As we have said previously, we would welcome clear and simple guidance for charities on solicitation statements and we would be happy to work with the government on this."
Solicitation statements have been dogged by criticism since their introduction in the Charities Act 2006. Early detractors said they would be unworkable and could deter donors, and that educating the public about the cost of fundraising should not be the responsibility of individual fundraisers, but rather of the charity community as a whole.
Sally de la Bedoyere, the outgoing chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, told Third Sector last month that it was unfair for telephone and street fundraisers to have to make declarations that aren’t applicable to other types of fundraising. "It’s a shame that there’s a spotlight on one particular form of fundraising and not others," she said. "The public are getting a half-story because all fundraising has a cost, whether it’s a direct mailshot or telephone."