Watchdog recommends changes to Code of Fundraising Practice

In its first adjudication report, on the now defunct fundraising agency Neet Feet, the Fundraising Regulator says there should be minimum requirements in contracts and better monitoring of staff with criminal records

The watchdog's report
The watchdog's report

The Fundraising Regulator wants to see changes made to the Code of Fundraising Practice to ensure that the contracts charities have with fundraising agencies contain certain minimum requirements and agencies that employ people with criminal records monitor them sufficiently.

The regulator has proposed the changes in its first adjudication report, which focuses on its four-month investigation of the former face-to-face fundraising agency Neet Feet.

The investigation revealed there were substantial variations between the contracts that Neet Feet had with the different charities it was working with and that people with criminal records were employed without all of the charity clients being informed of this.

The charities working with Neet Feet at the time the regulator launched its investigation in July were: Save the Children, Unicef, the RNIB, Action for Children, the disability charity Hft, Smile Train, World Animal Protection and the Children’s Trust.

The first seven charities were criticised by the regulator in its report for failing to monitor Neet Feet, but the Children’s Trust was cleared of any wrongdoing.

In its report, the regulator says there is a need for guidance outlining the minimum requirements of an agency contract.

"This could helpfully include confirmation that the charity and the agency carry joint responsibility for ensuring that fundraising activities comply with the code," the report says.

"We also consider the code and supporting guidance should set out what the expectations of charities and agencies should be in relation to making ‘all reasonable efforts’ to monitor the ongoing compliance of the third-party agencies that they work with."

On agencies employing ex-offenders, the report says it would not be appropriate for the regulator to recommend that this should never happen because this would risk undermining the rehabilitation work carried out by many charities and agencies, including Neet Feet, which said it employed such people because it believed in giving them an opportunity.

"However, we do think that in this case more could and should have been done to ensure the monitoring and oversight of employees at Neet Feet," it says.

The regulator’s standards committee, which sets the code and has so far made changes only to bring it in line with the Charities Act, will meet in December to discuss potential new rules about the contractual relationships between charities and third parties and whether further steps should be required of agencies that employ people with criminal records, a spokesman for the regulator said. 

It has not yet been decided whether the proposed changes will form part of the regulator's planned consultation on changes to the code – due to take place between February and April 2017 – or whether they will be made more quickly than this, the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Unicef, one of seven charities found by the investigation not to have made all reasonable efforts to ensure that Neet Feet complied with the code, said in a statement that the charity welcomed the regulator’s acknowledgement that the code did not currently provide enough guidance on working with agencies.

"We fully endorse the report’s observation that further guidance should be given on the kinds of checks that charities should undertake when employing external fundraising agencies," she said.

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