'No apology needed' to sector over fundraising scandal, Macmillan director says

Richard Taylor, director of fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support
Richard Taylor, director of fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support

The director of fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support has declined to apologise to the sector for his charity’s part in the fundraising scandals of last year.

Richard Taylor, who is also chair of the Institute of Fundraising, was speaking on a panel at the IoF’s trustees and fundraising conference in London yesterday when he was asked by an audience member whether the charity owed the rest of the sector an apology.

"I don’t feel we do," Taylor responded. "If we had to give an apology, it would be to a donor or to a beneficiary. I don’t think there’s anything for Macmillan to apologise to the sector for."

Taylor, who was accompanied on the panel by Lynda Thomas and Julia Palca, the charity’s chief executive and chair respectively, said charities had a collective responsibility for the misdemeanours of last year.

For that reason, he said, he and the IoF had coordinated an apology on behalf of the sector in September 2015.

This took the form of an open letter signed by the chief executives of 17 of the largest charities – including Macmillan – and a quote from Taylor which was published in the Sunday Times, saying: "I don’t know any fundraisers who wouldn’t be shocked if they thought they’ve created anxiety and distress to members of the public.

"Where that’s happened I want to apologise for that and say sorry, we have fallen below the expectations of the public."

Taylor, who joined Macmillan in September last year, told Third Sector after the session that he did not understand the point the audience member had been trying to make.

He said that despite being accused of breaking nine clauses of the Code of Fundraising Practice last year, Macmillan had only been found to have breached two clauses: failing to adequately monitor the activities of its former fundraising agency, GoGen, which is now defunct, and failing to make it clear to supporters how their contact details would be used. 

He said he believed most large charities would also have been found in breach of those rules at that time.

This is the second time this year that Taylor has been questioned publically about the conduct of large charities including Macmillan.

At the IoF’s annual general meeting in July, he was asked by Professor Stephen Lee of Cass Business School whether any action had been taken to remove IoF membership from Macmillan and three other large charities that were found to be in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice.

Taylor said at the time that Macmillan had corrected its practices and should not therefore be expelled.

Thomas, who was promoted from director of fundraising to chief executive of Macmillan in March 2015, also spoke on the panel about her experience being at the helm of the charity while it was under such scrutiny last year. She said it was her wedding anniversary when the worst of the media coverage hit. "It ruined my whole weekend," she said, adding that her first role leading the charity had been highly stressful.

The charity is planning to approve a new fundraising strategy which Taylor will propose to the board before Christmas.

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