The year in fundraising: 2013

The main developments of the past twelve months included the review of fundraising self-regulation, the successes and controversies of doorstep and other methods and a Treasury consultation on digital giving

Self-regulation of fundraising was never far from the headlines in 2013. In January, Adrian Sargeant, professor of marketing and fundraising at Plymouth Business School, called for 2013 to be the year when membership of the Fundraising Standards Board was made compulsory. His wish has not been granted, but the Public Administration Select Committee said in its report on self-regulation of the sector, published in June, that the self-regulatory bodies "must act with urgency" to increase membership of the FRSB.

The committee recommended that the existing regulation regime be given five years to improve, echoing the recommendation made last year by Lord Hodgson in his review of the Charities Act 2006. The three self-regulatory bodies – the FRSB, the Institute of Fundraising and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association – responded by commissioning the professional services firm PwC to carry out a review of self-regulation, which is due to report in 2014.

Doorstep fundraising emerged as a new focus for the self-regulators after the number of complaints to the FRSB about the technique nearly doubled in a year to 5,555 in 2012.

Meanwhile, street fundraising has been in decline, with the number of sign-ups down 47 per cent in 2012/13, according to figures published by the PFRA in June. The same report revealed that charities are increasingly providing street fundraising by training their own ‘in-house’ teams.

The homelessness charity Shelter set up a street fundraising academy to provide fundraisers for other charities in response to the closure of fundraising agencies, including Gift, the UK’s largest.

In July, Mark Astarita, chair of the IoF and director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, called on the sector to back its fundraisers. His memorable rallying cry – including the line: "if you spend it, you should be bloody proud of those that raise it" – asked whether it was time the UK had a US-style Charity Defence Council.

Two Treasury consultations were launched – one on how to breathe new life into payroll giving and the other on how to adapt Gift Aid for digital giving. Despite government promises of "radical changes" to payroll giving, the sector was left disappointed by its response to the consultation, published in September.

The Gift Aid and Digital Giving consultation opened in July after years of lobbying from the sector. The consultation closed in September and many in the sector believe the long-term solution is a universal donor database. The Treasury is yet to publish its response.

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport had been due to consult this year on the minimum proportion of proceeds a society lottery must give to good causes, but it has still not begun, leaving the issue in limbo. Some wonder whether it has been shelved.

The Charity Retail Association spent the year fighting Welsh government proposals to cut the business rate relief received by charity shops in Wales. In response to continuing criticism of the impact of charity shops on high streets, the CRA commissioned research by the think tank Demos into the positive role of charity retail in communities.

In July, the Charity Commission suspended the online giving website CharityGiving and appointed an interim manager to run the charity that owns it, the Dove Trust. More than 1,800 charities are said to be owed at least £250,000 and further details about an interim distribution of funds are due. 

The year drew to a close with Save the Children being accused of shelving criticism of corporate donors, in the same BBC Panorama programme that raised questions about Comic Relief’s investment in firms including an arms dealer and a tobacco company.

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