Joe Saxton: The Institute of Fundraising codes are not tough enough to reduce public annoyance

The codes should be overseen by the Fundraising Standards Board, with donors and the public represented in the process

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

If we are serious about increasing public trust and confidence in charities, we need to decrease the annoyance that a large portion of the public feel about today’s fundraising techniques. We can wriggle about it being a price worth paying to raise more money and how people really aren’t that annoyed, but that is just self-deception. Research by nfpSynergy shows time and again that the public are wound up by receiving telephone calls at home, by direct mail and door drops, by street and doorstep fundraising and the like.

So how do we reduce the worst levels of annoyance that the public feel? We have a recently consolidated code of practice that is created by the Institute of Fundraising, but it simply isn’t tough enough. My experience is that the code is produced by the fundraising community for the fundraising community. It’s a cosy club into which donors and the public are not admitted. An outrageous allegation, you say?

Well, there are no independent members of the IoF standards committee to represent donors. There are no independent trustees of the institute, to make sure the views of donors and the public are heard at board level. I am not aware of any research carried out by the standards committee to find out what the public think.

The proof of the power of any fundraising code to reduce the public’s annoyance will come when it stops fundraisers doing things that they would like to do. The only really restrictive provision I am aware of is in the timings and mechanics of the three peaks challenge of Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell.

If we want tougher codes, we need to look to other bodies. I believe the creation of the codes should now be overseen by the Fundraising Standards Board. The FRSB code committee can have an independent chair and a balance of fundraisers and lay people to create the next draft of the codes. The FRSB already has a trustee board where fundraisers are in a minority. The institute can develop its role as the advocate for fundraisers and fundraising; the FRSB can have the role of code-setter and arbiter.

I don’t expect the institute will like what I am proposing one little bit, but if we want resilient public trust then we need to put donors and the public at the heart of the code, rather than fundraisers.

Joe Saxton is head of the consultancy nfpSynergy and former chair of the IoF

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