RNIB chief Lesley-Anne Alexander refuses to give £15k to start-up costs of new regulator

In response to a letter from Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, she says she is not yet sure if it would be a good use of donors' money

Lesley-Anne Alexander
Lesley-Anne Alexander

The sight-loss charity the RNIB has refused to comply with a request to pay £15,000 towards the start-up costs of the new Fundraising Regulator.

A letter dated 17 February from the charity’s chief executive, Lesley-Anne Alexander, to Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the new body, says she could not agree to the payment without being sure it would be a good use of donors’ money.

"Turning to your request for start-up funding, I am afraid that I must decline at this time," reads the letter. "I have a strong commitment to running RNIB using clear business principles and therefore will need more information before I can consider making such a payment."

Alexander says in the letter that she took the same stance when being asked to pay for any goods or services on behalf of the charity because she had a duty to her donors to ensure that their money was spent wisely and in line with the charity’s mission.

She says she would be able to judge whether it would be a good use for donors’ money only if she was convinced that the regulator would add value to the RNIB’s work.

The letter continues: "In order that I may further consider your request, could you please forward the draft business plan (including performance metrics) by which I can measure the success of your organisation. I would also like to understand the terms on which the board members of the Fundraising Regulator have been appointed.

"Additionally, I would like to better understand how and when you will be connecting with experienced charity executives and fundraisers to ensure that the decisions of the board are made utilising the latest knowledge and experience of practitioners."

Alexander also requests details of the regulator’s plans for communicating with the public about its work and funding. "I suspect that the public will be surprised to learn that a proportion of their charitable donations will be spent on funding your organisation," she writes.

She says she was disappointed it had been deemed necessary to set up a new body to regulate fundraising when the charity sector was already regulated to an "onerous" degree and expresses regret that Dunmore said in his letter that neither he nor Lord Grade, the chair of the regulator, had the time or resources to engage with each of the larger charities individually.

Alexander’s missive comes in response to a letter sent to her by Dunmore on 10 February, in which he requested a contribution of £15,000 from the RNIB within two or three weeks. He said this would help the regulator to set up an effective body to help restore faith in fundraising.

"Your contribution and that of fellow charities would, over the set-up period, fund the regulator’s initial costs, including staff and accommodation, capital expenditure, some limited survey and data-collection work and expenditure related to the board and committees," the letter said.

Dunmore referred to a previous letter to the 50 largest fundraising charities, including the RNIB, by the Institute of Fundraising and the Public Fundraising Association last November asking charities to contribute to the body’s set-up costs.

The Fundraising Regulator, the IoF and the Cabinet Office all previously declined to share the names of the charities approached for funding when asked by Third Sector.

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