Institute of Fundraising standards committee to get independent chair

The three self-regulatory fundraising bodies will also review the buying and selling of data by charities and overhaul the Code of Fundraising Practice

The fundraising self-regulatory bodies
The fundraising self-regulatory bodies

The fundraising self-regulatory bodies have said they will appoint an independent chair to the Institute of Fundraising's standards committee, review the practice of charities buying and selling data and overhaul the Code of Fundraising Practice in the aftermath of the death of the 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke.

In a joint statement issued today, the Fundraising Standards Board, the IoF and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association said that an independent chair would be appointed to the IoF standards committee, which sets the Code of Fundraising Practice, and that the practice of buying, sharing or selling data among charities would be reviewed, "with the intention of tightening this even further".

They said they would strengthen the IoF code and investigate the feasibility of a sector-wide mystery shopping programme across a range of fundraising methods and charities.

The announcement comes after the chief executives of the three bodies met Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, to discuss the actions they were taking since Cooke’s death was reported last month.

The FRSB said it would publish an interim report on its investigation of the circumstances surrounding Cooke’s death next week and this would be considered at a standards committee meeting this Wednesday.

The standards committee’s current chair is Tanya Steele, director of fundraising at Save the Children. She has been chair of the committee since July 2014.

A spokesman for the IoF said the process for appointing a new chair would begin after its meeting on Wednesday.

Asked when the new chair was likely to be in post, the spokesman said the IoF would not be able to say until after Wednesday’s meeting.

Last year, a report on fundraising self-regulation by the professional services firm PwC recommended that the role be held by someone who was independent of the sector.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said in a statement: "In recent weeks, the public has raised serious concerns that charities are going too far, making too many asks and not making it easy enough for people to opt out of future contact. This is a pivotal moment for the charity sector and we welcome the recognition by it of the need to strengthen and tighten up the code."

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said: "We believe the new measures we’re committing to will further strengthen charities’ relationships with their supporters and ensure the very highest levels of accountability and transparency. Tightening the Code of Fundraising Practice will help to boost fundraising standards across charities, with a new independent chair of the standards committee making sure it happens."

The announcement about the review of data sharing comes after a report by BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme last Wednesday, which said that 12 charities had bought lists of prospective donors, including Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie, the NSPCC, Save the Children and the British Red Cross.

The PDSA, Breast Cancer Care, the RSPB, the Alzheimer's Society, St John Ambulance, the Salvation Army and the Royal British Legion were also named in the report as having done so. None of the 30 charities that responded to questions from the programme said they sold supporters' data.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner told Third Sector that it had no specific concerns about charities’ handling of data and that of the 10,000 to 15,000 complaints it had received in the last financial year, fewer than 100 were about charities.

He said that the information regulator would contribute to the FRSB’s investigation by sharing its expertise on data protection law

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