Stronger fundraising sanctions are needed, says Sir Stuart Etherington

The chief executive of the NCVO says the Fundraising Standards Board should be strengthened and the public visibility of the self-regulatory system improved

Sir Stuart Etherington
Sir Stuart Etherington

Stronger sanctions should be to introduced to deter detrimental fundraising practices, according to Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

In a blog published on the NCVO website yesterday, Etherington outlines five steps to improve the self-regulation of fundraising after the death of the poppy seller Olive Cooke raised a number of concerns.

He writes that the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association has "demonstrated that a sanctions regime can be effective, both in terms of compliance and public confidence in the system".

The PFRA operates a penalty points system for street and doorstep fundraisers that requires charities and agencies to pay financial penalties if their fundraisers accrue more than 1,000 points across the UK for breaches of the PFRA’s rule book.

Etherington says in the blog that the Fundraising Standards Board, the independent self-regulator for charity fundraising, "needs a stronger hand on sanctions" and "we need agreement on what that stronger sanctions regime should look like".

He says that further work is required to raise the "visibility and clarity" of self-regulation. The sector needs to consider how it raises the profile of the self-regulatory system as a whole, Etherington says, and "make it clear where someone should go with a concern or complaint".

He calls for the FRSB to be given greater resources to help improve the visibility of the self-regulatory system, and for the sector to work together to agree a way forward.

Other measures that Etherington proposes include the FRSB widening its reach, which he discussed in a speech at the NCVO’s annual dinner last week.

Etherington’s blog says that the fact the FRSB is able to adjudicate only on the 1,800 charities that are its members "is incompatible with public confidence", given that there are more than 160,000 registered charities in England and Wales.

"Either the FRSB must look at all charities, effectively abandoning a membership model, or we will need to implement a fundraising income threshold above which charities must be members of the FRSB or otherwise subject to it."

He adds that the debate needs to move beyond fundraisers.

Etherington says: "I appreciate that fundraisers are often unfairly having fingers pointed directly at them in this debate. They are tasked and overseen by chief executives and trustee boards. We need stronger guidance for boards and senior managers, with an emphasis on examples of good practice."

He says that the NCVO will work with the Institute of Fundraising, the Charity Finance Group and the Charity Commission to produce guidelines.

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