Institute of Fundraising chief executive Lindsay Boswell bows out

Departing IoF chief executive tells Alex Blyth about challenges that still face the fundraising sector.

Lindsay Boswell
Lindsay Boswell

Next month, Lindsay Boswell will step down as chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising after more than a decade. During those 10 years he has been at the heart of a transformation of the institute - and of fundraising itself.

"When I took up the post in 2000, it was the Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers," he recalls. "The organisation was a place where the profession spoke to itself, and to most people in the charity world fundraising was still the necessary evil at the end of the corridor."

Much has changed since then, he says: "Our focus is now on talking to the outside world about fundraising, and there is now a much wider understanding of the role that fundraising can play in linking donors to beneficiaries."

It has taken a lot of work by Boswell and the institute to shift perceptions. They have forged partnerships with other third sector bodies, such as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. To improve self-regulation, Boswell also played a central role in establishing the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.

"Fundraising is underpinned by trust and if in the future a problem did arise, we could point to those as clear examples of fundraisers providing rigorous self-regulation," says Boswell.

He is proud of the role he has played in the transformation he sees in the institute's brand and the industry's image. One measure of his success is the rise in the institute's membership from 2,000 to 5,500. "Fundraisers see us battling the things they face every day," he says. "They feel that we are relevant to their day-to-day work."

Boswell is leaving to become the chief executive of FareShare, a charity that aims to end food poverty, so he will remain heavily involved in the world of fundraising. He believes that he leaves the institute in a strong position, but with much for his successor to achieve.

"The first challenge is to maintain public trust and confidence in the charity sector," he says. "Trust and confidence are falling in almost every part of life, so it is essential that the Charity Commission remains a credible regulator that the public believes in. It can do this only if it gets sufficient funding from the government, and there are worrying signs that the coalition government has little faith in the commission."

He continues: "I'm not sure what the institute can do other than raise the issue and stress the importance of avoiding any loss of trust or confidence in this area."

Boswell also hopes his successor will support the recent trend towards creative and innovative fundraising campaigns, and will continue to professionalise the sector. "We brought in the Certificate in Fundraising Management 10 years ago, and in the autumn we're introducing a new set of qualifications," he says. "The challenge is to make these so widely used that they become the norm."

Boswell believes fundraising must evolve, but must not change too much: "Fundraising can become more professional, and it must continue to demonstrate the value it adds to society, but it must not become like marketing or any other profession. It is unique, and that is one of its greatest strengths - it must stay that way."

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