The majority of charities are focused on meeting the needs of their beneficiaries in extraordinarily difficult times, facing more demands on their services in a new, unexpected political environment and with less public sector funding predicted for years to come. So it was a surprise that in his keynote address at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ conference last night, Sir Stuart Etherington chose to focus on the structure of the self-regulation of fundraising.
It is true that fundraising practice is under the spotlight, but we are already taking quick action to address public concerns. I do not share his belief that the structures are flawed, as he seems to suggest, or that changing those structures would in itself address public concerns.
Fundraisers understand more than anyone else in the sector how important it is to maintain the public’s trust and confidence. And it is a surely partly down to their hard work, expertise and commitment that, even in these difficult times, the generosity of the public has, as Sir Stuart mentioned, continued to support vital causes around the UK.
And we should remember that it is a complaint-based self-regulatory system. The fundraising self-regulatory bodies have responded quickly and strongly to the issues that have arisen since the tragic death of Olive Cooke. The Fundraising Standards Board quickly analysed the complaints that it received and passed an analysis of these to the IoF standards committee, which has already reviewed them, committed to make several changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice and set up task groups to review more complex issues. The institute is recruiting an independent chair for its standards committee and, with the support of several major charities, has committed to set up a new compliance regime. Our open letter to the minister detailing all of this can be found here.
It is absolutely vital that time is taken, as in legislative developments, to develop the code in the right way, to make sure that the changes deliver the desired outcomes.
If Sir Stuart really wants to improve the self-regulatory system, he should throw the NCVO’s weight behind it, encourage NCVO members and charities of all shapes and sizes to contribute to the review and, through that, strengthen both the code and compliance with it.
The politicos will politic, the chatterati can chat, the media may opine, the knights will joust; but here at the institute, we have been rapidly taking forward what will really make a difference to the public’s trust and confidence in fundraising – strengthening the code and setting up a new compliance regime.