Sector critical of Lord Grade's 'laggards' comment on fundraising

The chair of the Fundraising Regulator said in a Telegraph article that 'too many charities are proving to be laggards' and misinformed the Today programme about the preference service

Lord Grade
Lord Grade

Lord Grade, chair of the Fundraising Regulator, has been criticised by charity sector umbrella bodies after he said too many charities were "proving to be laggards" and mistakenly said the Fundraising Preference Service would enable people to opt out of receiving communications from all charities.

Grade wrote an article for The Daily Telegraph newspaper today in which he said that the regulator had seen many charities make "a real effort to review their practices, leading to innovative and creative approaches that put the donor first".

But he said there was still a long way to go. "Too many charities are proving to be laggards," he wrote. "But they will have to follow suit, whether they like it or not, due to another regulation which comes into force next year," said Grade, meaning the General Data Protection Regulation.

Grade also appeared on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, where he mistakenly said people would be able to use the FPS to prevent communication from all charities or hear only from "charities that you favour".

Information on the Fundraising Regulator’s website about the FPS, which will prevent direct marketing communications from charities by email, post, text message or telephone, says people will be able to identify up to three charities that they do not wish to hear from per online request. If people want to identify further charities, they must submit new requests.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said he was "deeply frustrated and saddened" to hear Grade talking again about fundraisers in a negative way and "misrepresenting how the overwhelming majority of charities communicate with and value their supporters".

Lewis said: "We know that our members’ relationships with donors is paramount, which is why over the past year charities have supported the set-up of the regulator and helped to shape the FPS."

He said the IoF supported a strong regulatory system, but in order for it to succeed it was vital that "clarity prevails over confusion".

He said: "Only then can the regulator fully command the trust of both charities and the public.

"Ahead of Thursday’s launch of the FPS it is essential that the public hear the right information about the service so that the level of public trust and confidence that Lord Grade wants to see can be achieved."

Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo, said Grade’s remarks were "not helpful".

She said: "For Lord Grade to brand charities ‘laggards’ in public only serves to undo the hard work of both his organisation and the sector in restoring public trust and confidence."

Other people in the sector used Twitter to respond to Grade’s comments.

The Daily Telegraph used the article as the basis for its top story today, which says charities could be fined up to £25,000 if they "pester donors for cash".

The figure is not mentioned by Grade, who said in his Today programme interview that any fines were a matter for the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Grade’s Telegraph article was written before the regulator is due to launch the FPS on Thursday, which coincides with the body’s first anniversary.

A spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said it would be issuing clarifications to the media on some of the statements made by Grade. 

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