Stephen Pidgeon: This FRSB paper would take us back 30 years

Our columnist contrasts the interim report of the Fundraising Standards Board on fundraising practices with the think tank Rogare's views on a new theory of fundraising ethics

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

Two important papers were published in June: one was greeted by silence, the other by a self-generated fanfare of trumpets. The latter was the interim report from the Fundraising Standards Board on its investigation of charity fundraising practices.

It contains some important proposed measures, and I'm delighted to see the Institute of Fundraising's swift response.

I want to see the end of donor-list swaps, clarity in opting-out facilities, the Telephone Preference Service provisions fully implemented and so on.

It's possible that the FRSB was responding to stories in the tabloid press or excitement at the interest shown by the Prime Minister. Whatever it was, the report also contained statements so naive that it's made me look again at the make-up of the board of the FRSB.

Its members are all middle-aged and, though a few are retired, most are still working. They seem to want to take fundraising back 30 years. One of the focuses of the investigation was the use of scripts by telephone fundraising agencies. Is the FRSB implying that it's all right for the commercial world to use telephone scripts, but that charities must appear to be bumbling amateurs in order to do our jobs properly?

FRSB board members are not representative of donors. They seem unaware that most small donations come from a generation that's 20 or 30 years their senior, who live at home rather than work and take pleasure from their support of causes that are important to them. Olive Cooke was a classic example – her support for charities was important to her.

So as a donor who is more in the latter generation than the former, I also resent the FRSB's demand that charities restrict the number of times they contact me.

I resent the notion that because I'm getting old I should not be approached in the same way as younger donors, which is something the FRSB suggested in its report. And what does it mean? I wonder if the FRSB board members ever meet real donors who are not complaining?

The other paper? It's from Plymouth University's think tank, Rogare, and talks of a new theory of fundraising ethics. It seeks to balance the ethics of fundraising with our duties to our beneficiaries. And it castigates knee-jerk reactions to exploding headlines in favour of the establishment of normative fundraising ethics. Find it here. I look forward to its launch at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland conference in October.

Stephen Pidgeon is a consultant and a teacher

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