INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: We're working to broaden benefits of membership

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

As we all get back into the swing of work after a wonderful summer and a quiet August (sorry if you were particularly busy!) it's worth catching up on one of the more important events of the past two months.

Recently, the commission into self-regulation in fundraising issued its first consultation paper. This asks a wide range of questions around the scope and extent of any self-regulation scheme. While many of the answers are not yet known, the Institute is committed to as wide a consultation as possible.

The Institute's position will be to use our current organisational membership as the basis for a scheme to allow fundraising organisations to take part in the standards applied to self-regulation. One of the dangers in such a position is to end up making so much noise about why fundraising organisations should take part, that our traditional and core membership, individual fundraisers, get ignored and feel left behind.

Our mission is to improve and promote the highest standards in fundraising.

Our individual membership has grown steadily from just under 2,000 three years ago to 3,800 in the middle of 2003. Many of these members are from smaller, more isolated organisations away from the south east. Some of our greatest growth has been in the area of health and in particular the NHS. The growth in hospital fundraising is considerable as NHS Trusts have the money to invest in such growth.

Over the past two years, a great deal of work has gone into broadening the range of member benefits. Our National and Regional groups' activities have increased by more than 70 per cent in this time. While all their events, training and networking evenings and support services are available to non-members as a way of attracting people into the benefits, members get preferential rates. Many smaller organisations are realising that it is worth covering the membership costs for their fundraisers as they end up being better at their jobs, raising money for their causes.

We now have 26 groups as part of the branch structure and often idea-sharing and problem-solving can be done over email. Additionally, access to the Institute as a reference source for help or advice and the ability to access others who are experts in a particular area are a real plus point of membership.

The core essence of membership though is aligned to the codes. A fundraiser who is a member shows that they sign up to the highest standards in fundraising and can be expected by their employer to be aware of best practice. Part of that best practice is a commitment to keep themselves up-to-date with what is happening in the world of fundraising.

Clearly the more fundraisers that join and participate then the greater the benefit to all our members. For this reason we have started an active membership drive. "Making the ask" is a great fundraising phrase and the most successful form of recruitment has been to use members to recruit others who would bring benefit to and gain from membership. A copy of the recruitment literature is on our website, so if you haven't had a letter from me recently asking you to join then either email me directly at lindsayb@ institute-of-fundraising.org.uk or download an application form from the membership section of the website.

Going back to the self-regulation issue, I recently came across a 1968 report called Charitable Fund-Raising which was produced by the National Council of Social Services. It was asked by the Charity Commission to consider concerns around the many problems of fundraising and to look at the possibility of establishing a code of conduct. The report makes fascinating reading as it struggles to find evidence of complaints. The Charity Commission provided its complaints register from 1963 until 1968 and it was made up of the following complaints (after those from "cranks and the seriously misguided were discounted"): 100 about advertising, 19 about professional fundraisers, 64 about fundraising methods, 21 complained about the high cost of appeals or doubted whether contributions all reached the beneficiaries. There were 17 complaints about competitions, 39 about second-hand clothes, 39 about charity shops and 57 about foot- ball pools.

Those were the days!

The Buse Commission report is available from www.busecommission.org.uk.

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