Fundraising rules stress importance of self-regulation, says institute

Fundraisers must make self-regulation work to avoid more legislation such as the impending rules governing the statements fundraisers must make when talking to donors, according to the Institute of Fundraising.

The Government has said that it might legislate if self-regulation fails. But the institute warned that the new fundraising rules that come into force on 1 April as part of the Charities Act 2006 are complicated and demonstrate how difficult legislating could be for the Government and fundraisers.

The rules require professional fundraisers to tell donors whether they are paid, what their relationships are to charities and, in some cases, how much they are paid. The Cabinet Office has released guidance to help charities comply with the rules. One example suggests that agency fundraisers should state how much of a donation goes to the charity and how much goes to their hourly and annual wage.

“While this guidance is helpful, it does demonstrate just how difficult it is to legislate on matters that relate to fundraising practice,” said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising. “Its overall intention of greater openness and transparency is strongly welcomed and an important objective, but the cumbersome nature of the actual declaration that is required to be made by a professional fundraiser completely flies in the face of this objective.”

The institute also said that because volunteers were exempt from the rules, the requirements discriminated against charities that had to use third party professional fundraising organisations and favour organisations that rely heavily on volunteers to carry out their fundraising.

The institute also expressed concerns about the short timescale between the publication of the guidance and the date at which charities are required to implement the legislation, which will still be under consultation when it comes into force.

“Due to a lack of resources in the Office of the Third Sector, the sector is now in a ridiculous halfway-house situation where it is being required to implement these changes in legislation by 1 April, yet it is still subject to change until the end of May,” said Boswell.

The Fundraising Standards Board agreed that the rules posed a challenge for all, including those drafting the guidance. The board was involved in the working group that advised the Office of the Third Sector when it was putting the guidance together.

“This was a challenging brief for us,” said Jon Scourse, chief executive of the FRSB. “We had to assist the Office of the Third Sector in delivering this new legislation while keeping the requirements as practical as possible for the fundraising community as well as maintaining our objective of helping the public give to charity with confidence.”

A government spokeswoman rejected the criticisms. She said: "The claim that the timing of the draft guidance is down to resource issues is entirely unfounded. The publication date is absolutely deliberate to ensure that fundraisers' experience of the law in practice can be taken to account in the final draft.

"The guidance is simply there to help, it is not mandatory. The law which is mandatory was passed two years ago which should have been adequate time for fundraisers to prepare."

 

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