The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s final report on charity fundraising has drawn mixed responses from the sector’s umbrella organisations, with the chief executives body Acevo branding it a bid to "throw self-regulation out of the window".
Acevo and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, whose chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington carried out a review of the self-regulation of fundraising last summer, both said they disagreed with the inquiry’s recommendation to make the new Fundraising Regulator accountable to the Charity Commission, which Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP who chairs the PACAC, hopes to make law by means of an amendment to the charities bill, due to be debated in the House of Commons this week.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said the proposal would mean that charity self-regulation had effectively been "thrown out of the window".
Referring to a second amendment to the charities bill proposed by Jenkin, which would give the commission the power to hold public hearings about fundraising with representatives from charities, Bubb said this would increase the already "onerous and sometimes intimidating" burden on charities. He said this would be tantamount to "statutory regulation by the back door", which Acevo did not support.
Bubb said Acevo believed that the PACAC had lost sight of a truth central to all charities: that the vast contribution they made to the fabric of the nation depended on money given to them by donors and government funding.
Etherington echoed Acevo’s view that it would be inappropriate for the Fundraising Regulator to report to the Charity Commission, saying in a statement: "I continue to believe a reporting line to parliament is more fitting for a self-regulator."
But Acevo and the NCVO both said they agreed with the report’s claim that charity trustees were responsible for the running of their organisations.
A spokesman for the NSPCC, which was one of four charities called to give oral evidence to the committee, said the charity’s trustees did not accept the report’s claim that they were "blind" to the fundraising practices being carried out in their names.
"They have been involved in an ongoing programme to strengthen relationships with a smaller number of partner agencies that can demonstrate they match our values and ethos," he said. He added that they hoped the new regime for fundraising regulation would be more representative of "perspectives beyond fundraisers themselves".
The Fundraising Standards Board, the Institute of Fundraising, the Public Fundraising Association and the Charity Commission all issued statements welcoming the report, as did the Alzheimer’s Society and the think tank New Philanthropy Capital. Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, and the Information Commissioner’s Office said they would consider the findings.
Wilson said: "We thank the committee for its report, which will require careful consideration. We will respond to its recommendations in due course."
A spokesman for the Charity Commission said the regulator welcomed the committee’s view that the commission needed to be properly funded to fulfil its regulatory role. He said the commission had been saying for some time that trustees must retain a grip on fundraising and have a better oversight of charity activities.
The Fundraising Standards Board issued a statement from its chair, Andrew Hind, saying the committee was right to stress that stronger regulation of fundraising was no substitute for the required change in trustees’ attitudes and behaviours. He said this observation mirrored the key conclusion from the FRSB’s report, published last week, on the lessons that needed to be learned from the death of the poppy seller Olive Cooke.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, who also gave evidence to the committee, said in a statement that he welcomed the committee’s broad support for the new self-regulatory system for fundraising. The statement also praised the report’s emphasis on the role of trustees and governance in driving forward changes to fundraising within organisations.