The Fundraising Regulator plans to produce clear guidance on data protection after finding that the majority of small and medium charities have been failing to observe the necessary requirements in this area, especially around data sharing and consent.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the regulator, told Third Sector that the regulatory guidance, which will be produced over the autumn, will include details on the consents charities should obtain.
He said he hoped the guidance would be endorsed by the Information Commissioner’s Office and added that many charities, of all sizes, did not appear to have the required consents in place for all their donor contacts.
He said they needed to follow the example of a number of larger charities and review their databases.
Dunmore also confirmed that the most common themes among the 149 complaints the regulator received in its first two months of operation were doorstep fundraising, the frequency of contact and approaches to vulnerable people. He said there were few complaints about telephone fundraising. The number of complaints was higher than expected, according to the notes from the regulator’s latest board meeting.
The regulator's latest newsletter says that 56 complaints have been dealt with by the charities concerned and 17 have been taken forward for investigation by the regulator. One complaint has gone to the regulator’s adjudications committee and the remaining 75 have been referred either to other regulators such as the Charity Commission or to the charities concerned to be resolved within 28 days.
Of the total complaints received, 51 are understood to have been about non-fundraising issues.
Dunmore said the regulator was well advanced with a major investigation of The Sun’s allegations about the now-defunct fundraising agency Neet Feet. Its adjudication committee is expected to come to a decision on the case before the end of the month and will publically release its first adjudication report soon after.
The regulator is understood to be planning to publish the results of all of its investigations except in the case of small, one-off misdemeanours, which it will attempt to resolve directly with the charities concerned.
Dunmore said that one of the regulator’s key priorities was to roll out its levy system, which will charge charities a fee depending on their fundraising expenditure. Letters will shortly go out to the 2,000 charities and fundraising agencies eligible to pay the levy, but numerous organisations are understood to remain unclear about what charity expenditure will count towards the threshold for paying the levy.
According to the regulator’s website, fundraising expenditure will be determined by the Sorp fundraising spend data submitted by charities to the Charity Commission at the end of 2014, but some sector professionals say that this is not specific enough and organisations that raise funds only from, for example, foundations are unsure if they will be expected to pay.
Another priority for the regulator is to prepare for a major consultation in early 2017 on changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice, said Dunmore. The code of practice was previously under the Institute of Fundraising's control but it passed to the regulator when the latter body was launched in June.
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, now sits as an observer on the regulator’s standards committee, which oversees the code. It was agreed in August that a member of the Scottish independent fundraising panel, which was set up earlier this summer to develop Scottish fundraising standards, should also hold observer status on the committee.
The regulator is due to publish its business plan on its website tomorrow.