Chiefs of 17 large charities write open letter calling for a new regulator to be established

Coordinated by the Institute of Fundraising, the letter to The Sunday Times says Sir Stuart Etherington should recommend an independent regulator with teeth be set up

Institute of Fundraising letter
Institute of Fundraising letter

The chief executives of 17 of the UK’s largest charities have signed an open letter calling for a new regulator to be set up, which the Institute of Fundraising says would replace the Fundraising Standards Board.

The letter, coordinated by the IoF and sent to The Sunday Times newspaper, has been backed by the heads of charities including Oxfam, the NSPCC, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and the RSPCA.

Published in full on the IoF website, the letter calls on Sir Stuart Etherington, who is conducting the review of the self-regulation of fundraising that is due to report later this month, to establish a new and independent regulator "with the power to proactively investigate, audit and impose strong penalties on any charity that breaks the rules on fundraising".

This would include fines for charities that break the rules.

The letter says the regulator should have "more teeth and more sanctions".

The news comes before a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee tomorrow, at which MPs will question the leaders of the IoF, the FRSB, Oxfam, the NSPCC, Save the Children and the RSPCA as part of its inquiry into call centre fundraising.

Richard Taylor, chair of the IoF, was quoted in yesterday’s Sunday Times as saying that the new regulator should be a unit inside the Charity Commission — funded by a levy on all charities — and should replace the existing regulator, the Fundraising Standards Board, which has no power to fine charities.

He said he expected data-selling by charities to be tackled by introducing an opt-in system that asked donors prominently if they were willing for their data to be shared.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, confirmed that the Code of Fundraising Practice was likely to be amended to incorporate these new rules, which the FRSB had called for in its interim report in June.

But he told Third Sector that while the IoF and the charity leaders did want a new regulator, which would regulate all charities and have the power to fine them, most charities the IoF had spoken to did not want it to be part of the Charity Commission. He said the IoF had made this clear to the commission and the Office for Civil Society this morning.

The IoF is instead understood to want a system of "co-regulation" to be established, whereby the Charity Commission would have overall responsibility for regulation but would appoint an independent regulator to regulate fundraising on a day-to-day basis. This would work in a similar way to the system that regulates premium-rate phone services: here Ofcom is the parent regulator and PhonepayPlus operates under its authority. Lewis declined to confirm whether the IoF wanted to replicate this model.

William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, told Third Sector that although the commission did not regulate fundraising practice directly, it had a clear interest in how effectively the self-regulatory system responded to public concerns about fundraising.

"I await with interest the vital report that Sir Stuart Etherington is about to publish on fundraising – if the review recommends any changes to our role we will stand ready to respond," he said.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said he did not wish to comment until after tomorrow’s committee meeting.

The IoF will make its final decision on the latest code changes at its standards committee meeting on 16 September and its board meeting the following day. It expects to formally announce any changes shortly afterwards.

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