Successful charities should take those guilty of poor fundraising practice to task, Dame Julia Cleverdon says

Cleverdon, vice-president of Business in the Community, was speaking at a panel debate organised by the Directory of Social Change

Dame Julia Cleverdon
Dame Julia Cleverdon

Successful charities should take other third sector organisations that are guilty of poor fundraising practice to task about their behaviour, according to Dame Julia Cleverdon, vice-president of Business in the Community.

Speaking during a panel debate held as part of the Directory of Social Change’s Charity Fair in London yesterday, Cleverdon said that charities had to take the issues raised recently in the fundraising sector seriously.

"Some of the great charities have got to turn and talk to some of those who are letting the place down," she said.

Echoing Cleverdon’s call for large charities to take more responsibility for improving perceptions of the sector, Jay Kennedy, head of policy at the DSC, who was also on the panel, said larger charities that paid their senior executives high salaries needed to put resources into defending the practice.

He said it was not enough for charities to rely on infrastructure bodies such as Acevo and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to make the case about charity executives’ remuneration, and the sector here needed a Charity Defence Council similar to the one set up in the US by the fundraiser and activist Dan Pallota, which has tried to help the US sector defend itself against defamation.

Kennedy said that boards of trustees in particular needed to speak out about pay.

But Peter Wanless, chief executive of the children’s charity the NSPCC, said he doubted anyone would listen if trustees did speak out.

Wanless, who was recently the subject of a Sun newspaper investigation that described him as a "fat cat" because of his reported salary of £162,000, said he was fearful of saying anything on the subject in case his words were twisted or turned against him. "It’s open season on charities at the moment," he said.

Wanless said he was recently asked by William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, for his view on commision's proposal for charities to pay a fee to fund the work of the regulator. He said he told Shawcross that it would be challenging to convince the NSPCC’s supporters – at a time when fundraising was already hard work – that their money should go towards what they would see as another "bureaucratic overhead".

Cleverdon said the commission should instead seek the funding from government departments that had made savings over the years from the work conducted by the charity sector on their behalf. The money could also come from Libor fines, she said.

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