Stephen Cook: The Institute of Fundraising is back on course

The new regime at the institute has changed the structure and revised the strategy, says Third Sector's editor, but the difficult question of self-regulation still looms

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

These are exciting times for the Institute of Fundraising. It went through a relatively rudderless period for most of last year, but since the arrival last October of the new chief executive, Peter Lewis, things have been moving steadily forward on the basis of a comprehensive survey of its members.

Their views have shaped much of what has happened, including a restructuring of the institute that has strengthened the policy team, created a research section and brought the appointment of a fundraiser to widen its sources of income. Staff numbers have risen from 39 to 46.

The recruitment of a researcher opens the potential for the institute to become a repository of data on practical fundraising that could prove invaluable to members. It has been a long-running lament that such information is difficult to find.

The institute is also taking a higher profile in the national debate on the role of the sector. It is trying, in particular, to persuade the government that fundraisers need as much help and encouragement as philanthropists.

It has also played a prominent part in the successful Give it Back, George campaign, called for the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme to be simplified, and submitted its detailed views to Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006.

In that submission, it made a plea for a simplified licensing system for public fundraising; it also acknowledged a situation that might take some ingenuity to resolve.

This is the non-universal system of self-regulation of fundraising, whereby the Fundraising Standards Board runs a membership scheme based on codes of practice drawn up by the institute, and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association also regulates its members in face-to-face fundraising using its own set of rules.

It’s a fair bet that the public doesn’t really understand this arrangement, and the institute is not the only organisation that thinks it needs rationalising. The response to Hodgson from the expert group convened by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has also drawn attention to "confusion about the different roles and responsibilities". Sorting this out might be one of the most tricky forthcoming challenges for the resurgent institute.

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