News Analysis: Standards board gets a ticking off

An amended logo will not be allowed to throw the Fundraising Standards Board off course.

Colin Lloyd
Colin Lloyd

If Colin Lloyd was at all upset by the latest setback to the Fundraising Standards Board, he wasn't letting it show. The day after it emerged that the organisation had been obliged to change its logo by the Federation of Small Businesses, the chairman of the board was cheerful and upbeat.

"I had a great day yesterday," he told Third Sector. "It gave me an opportunity to speak to all our major members, who were saying 'these things happen all the time - don't lose sight of the big picture'."

His composed response has been echoed by some major charities that have joined the board's self-regulation scheme for fundraisers.

Aneesha Moreira, director of fundraising at the British Heart Foundation, says: "While it is not ideal that the logo is being changed at this stage, we understand the reasons.

"The FSB has advised us that we should use 'reasonable endeavours' to ensure that the existing logo is not used after 1 November. That offers some flexibility."

Peter Storey, head of individuals fundraising at the Kidney Research UK, says there would not be a significant cost for the charity. "The programme that they have agreed with the federation gives us a reasonable roll-out period," he says. "It's not a big inconvenience."

Those who are critical prefer to stay off the record. Asked if the episode was an own goal, one senior figure in the fundraising world says: "You might say that - I couldn't possibly comment. But it is deeply, deeply unfortunate."

Root of the problem

So how did the misfortune come about? Lloyd says the process of registering the logo as a trademark was undertaken by the board's lawyers. The board did not know that the FSB owned the trademark and did not contact it before the logo was launched last year.

"We had sufficient comfort from our lawyers that we would be able to register the logo, so we decided to proceed with the development and establishment of our organisation as the FSB," he said.

Lloyd believes that it would have been extremely difficult to investigate all the other users of the abbreviation, pointing out that if you enter FSB into a Google search you will discover that there are "dozens and dozens" of listings.

"It would have meant investigating all of the acronyms to discover which ones were registered and which ones weren't. No, we did not contact the FSB - which one would you call?" he asks.

The complaint occurred during the part of the registration process when the logo is put into the public domain to see if there are any objections. At this point, the board had to decide whether to contest the complaint or seek a different solution.

"We believe that we could have won a court case had we wished to continue," says Lloyd. "But it would have taken perhaps two years and tens of thousands of pounds, and I took the decision that it was inappropriate for the board to do that at this stage in its history and growth."

The federation says that it started to notice the rival abbreviation in press clippings and felt it was muddying the picture. "The potential for confusion is there," says a spokesman. "We have worked amicably with the FRSB to sort this out."

Max Du Bois, executive director of branding consultancy Spencer Du Bois, who advised the FRSB at the time of the launch, says: "I think the FSB is being petty minded, because it is in a different sector.

"Federation of Small Businesses in the charity sector? I don't think so. The logo clearly said Fundraising Standards Board underneath it. You don't get clearer than that."

Lloyd believes the outcome to the dispute that has been achieved is a reasonable one. Member charities will be allowed to use up existing printed material, and the aim is to have the amended logo in general use by November.

"The new logo is very similar to the existing one," he says. "We will still use the recognition of this as a test of whether we have been successful."

The dispute over the logo is the latest in a line of teething problems that the FRSB has encountered, including difficulty in reaching recruiting targets in the early stages, followed by a postponement of its launch to the public.

"Some of these things I have done deliberately," says Lloyd. "I took the decision about changing the launch date because members asked me for more time to get to their trustees.

"We are the first organisation of its type in the world. More than anything we need to get established, and any young company getting off the ground would face similar issues."

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