Senior fundraisers doubt Tory pledge of paid leave for staff to volunteer

Big Questions Live at Third Sector’s Fundraising Week
Big Questions Live at Third Sector’s Fundraising Week

Senior fundraisers have expressed doubts about the Conservative Party’s new pledge to enable employees to take three days of paid leave to volunteer.

Speaking this morning at Big Questions Live, the opening panel discussion of Third Sector’s Fundraising Week, Louise Parkes, head of fundraising at the British Heart Foundation, and Mike Wade, head of fundraising at the National Deaf Children’s Society and a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising, said they were concerned about the potential cost to charities of facilitating the volunteering.

On Friday, the Conservative Party announced its pledge that every employee of a company with more than 250 staff and every public sector worker would be entitled to three days of paid leave to volunteer.

Parkes said that when she worked at Help the Aged, now Age UK, companies regularly asked the charity to organise volunteering projects for large groups of staff, such as painting daycare centres. "The resources and time that went into organising and supporting people who went in and painted those daycare centres was significant," she said.

She said the charity ended up charging organisations for facilitating volunteering days, and on one occasion a daycare centre was painted so poorly that the charity had to hire decorators to do the job again.

Wade said that some companies he worked with on corporate partnerships requested that all company staff be given the opportunity to volunteer. "My heart sinks because it’s going to cost me so much to set it all up that it’s not worth the hassle," he said. He said it was not clear who the scheme was intended to help.

On the subject of the self-regulation of fundraising, the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who produced the review of the Charities Act 2006, said he considered self-regulation the "least worst" option because government regulation would be slow to respond to evolving sector practices and would be costly, he said.

He referred to the Institute of Fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association as "alphabet soup" because of the acronyms by which they are commonly known, and said that although he recognised that each of these organisations was trying hard to improve self-regulation, none currently appeared to want to take responsibility when issues arose, such as in street fundraising or direct mail. "They need to subsume a certain amount of sovereignty in one structure," he said.

Commenting on the issue of fundraisers approaching properties that displayed no-cold-calling stickers, Lawrie Simanowitz, a partner at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, said an FRSB survey had found that almost 40 per cent of householders thought the stickers should not apply to charities. He said charities should nevertheless respect the stickers and not knock when they encountered them.

  • An edited version of the debate, which was streamed live, will be available shortly on the Third Sector website

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