INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Institute reforms appeal system to help cut fraud

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

The Institute of Fundraising stands for the promotion of best practice in fundraising. Simple, clear, concise. But sometimes I come across people who assume that the value of the best practice standards are somehow measured by the number of members who have been "done" in the past year or two.

How many people have been caught? How many have you thrown out?

For others, it comes as a bit of a shock to discover that there is a disciplinary process. Every member, on joining, agrees to support the maintenance of best practice in fundraising. Implicit in this is exposing poor practice wherever it happens.

Such an approach is designed to help profile best practice. Most occasions where standards are not all they should be result from a lack of knowledge rather than a wilful intent. Do you know, for certain, what your branches and volunteers are up to when it comes to fundraising?

As a result, most of the complaints we get are dealt with through an internal arbitration process that gets the two parties talking. Often this process goes way beyond just members. In the same way that the Codes of Fundraising Practice are openly available to anyone, we are interested in helping all fundraisers drive up standards.

We have, however, had a few complaints recently that have caused us to re-examine our disciplinary procedures and ensure that they are up-to-date.

Last year, our lawyers recommended that we needed to include a greater degree of independence in the appeals process. For this reason, last November, we held an extraordinary general meeting in order to change our constitution, thereby allowing a totally independent system of appeal to be set up.

Clearly none of this makes a jot of difference to deliberate and clear-cut fraudulent fundraising. No set of rules, be they legal or best practice, are going to prevent some people from breaking the law. But, as a couple of high-profile cases have shown over the past few years, knowledge of the Institute's standards has helped prove that such unlawfulness has gone beyond ignorance and has been deliberate.

The combination of the codes of practice linked to the disciplinary procedures makes for a powerful way of mitigating against the risks of poor fundraising activity. Next time your trustees carry out a risk assessment, point this out.

The disciplinary procedures, in their revised format, are now available from the web site at www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk.

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