Paul Stallard has become chair of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association at a somewhat uncertain time for face-to-face fundraising.
Street fundraising has faced a backlash from the media and the public, and increasing numbers of councils are clamping down on the number of days each week that street fundraisers can operate. And all of this is happening at a time when the PFRA is without a chief executive, after Mick Aldridge stepped down in September.
So it might come as a surprise that the PFRA has chosen someone who has never worked full time in face-to-face fundraising to become its first paid chair - Stallard will receive £12,000 a year for working 55 days, following a change in the PFRA's governing documents. Stallard's only direct experience in the fundraising arena has come as a volunteer fundraiser at four national charities, including the Royal Life Saving Society and the Elizabeth Foundation.
Instead, much of Stallard's career has been in senior marketing positions for financial services companies, including Skipton Building Society. He now runs his own financial services consultancy, Hurndall-Stallard Associates.
But Stallard does not see his relative lack of direct fundraising experience as a problem, saying there are parallels between the regulatory changes he has seen in the financial services sector and the regulatory challenges facing the PFRA. "I lived through regulation arriving in financial services in 1986," he says. "The whole process from very early days to where we are now has been an interesting one because, at the end of the day, it has benefited the consumer in financial services terms. And I see parallels in what the PFRA is doing in benefiting beneficiaries."
The PFRA made clear before Stallard's appointment that it wanted an external, independent chair who did not necessarily have experience in face-to-face fundraising. At the time, Michael Naidu, the long-time acting chair of the PFRA, said it needed to be seen more as an independent self-regulator than as a trade association.
Stallard also emphasises the PFRA's regulatory role, but says he is not closed to the idea of it changing. "The PFRA is not a trade association - it is a regulatory body," he says. "And whether or not that remains so in the medium to long-term is still to be seen. If the membership decides that we should take a road different from that of a regulator, then the members decide, but at the moment the membership has decided that our role is that of a regulator."
He thinks the wider regulatory process for different types of face-to-face fundraising could be more streamlined, especially when it comes to such things as licences.
"I'd like to see a holistic approach to regulation in the face-to-face environment - be it by street, door-to-door, private site or workplace environment," he says. "A situation in which it's all treated as one whole would be perfect."
These issues are likely to form part of the PFRA's response to government for evidence as part of its review of the Charities Act - something Stallard said it has started to think about and the content of which will need to be approved by its members.
The PFRA and the Fundraising Standards Board both regulate different aspects of fundraising. Stallard is happy with the existing system and doesn't believe there's too much crossover. "I think the FRSB being the adjudicator of complaints and issues that charities aren't able to resolve is an extremely good focus," he says. "I like that role of having very specific, clearly defined responsibilities because no one is under any misapprehensions as to what we're doing. We wouldn't go into the area of their responsibility, and we'd expect them to behave the same way."
As far as the problems of public perception with face-to-face are concerned, Stallard does not see too much of a problem. He says he has had one bad experience of being approached by a street fundraiser, but has also had plenty of good approaches.
"Negative stories get picked up for whatever reasons, but in my experience it isn't the true state of affairs on the high street," he says. "As a generalisation, people I've spoken to have not had that bad an image problem with people who stop them in the street."
And far from face-to-face fundraisers disappearing in the next five years, Stallard believes that they will become more tolerated by the public in years to come, more efficient and have better standards.
"It will become more acceptable and pleasurable to see people in the community, because that's what they are at the end of the day," he says. "I liken them to Big Issue salesmen. You don't get anyone complaining about Big Issue sellers because they're part of the community."
2004: Director, Hurndall-Stallard Associates
2002: Sales and marketing director, Fyshe Horton Finney
2000: Vice-president, marketing and business development, TD Waterhouse
1998: Sales and marketing director, Dealwise
1994: Head of marketing, Skipton Building Society