Andy Hillier: Who would be chair of the IoF?

The fundraising membership body has begun the search for its next chair. Third Sector's editor says it should consider someone from outside the small circle of heads of fundraising at the biggest charities

Richard Taylor has experienced a challenging time as chair of the Institute of Fundraising since his appointment in July 2014.

Less than a year into his tenure, the fundraising profession faced wave after wave of negative national media coverage, ultimately leading to tighter regulation and more questioning attitudes to fundraising.

In many ways, Taylor has done a remarkable job of navigating the membership body through difficult waters. The IoF lost stewardship of the Code of Fundraising Practice in the shake-up of fundraising self-regulation, but has otherwise remained intact despite strong calls for fundraising reform. There were no resignations of either board members or senior executives in the wake of the fundraising scandals, and calls for the IoF to take action against individual members for their use of certain fundraising practices seem to have ebbed away – for now.

The biggest loser in the shake-up of fundraising self-regulation was, of course, the Fundraising Standards Board, the watchdog replaced last year by the Fundraising Regulator. The IoF and the FRSB did not enjoy the best of relations and its demise has paved the way for a new relationship between fundraisers and their regulator: one in which, it is to be hoped, public perceptions about fundraising will be given higher regard. Tensions will always exist between regulator and those it regulates, but under Taylor’s leadership of the IoF board major fireworks have so far been averted, despite concerns that some aspects of the new fundraising regulatory set-up had gone too far.  

His time as chair has also seen the merger with the Public Fundraising Association, a move long resisted but deemed necessary as part of the shake-up of fundraising self-regulation. Bringing two organisations together is often fraught with difficulty, so credit must be given to Taylor and the IoF for what appears from the outside to be a smooth transition.             

Equally, however, significant challenges await whoever replaces Taylor when he steps aside as chair this summer after serving the maximum six years on the board.

The IoF’s leadership and control over all things fundraising has increasingly come under pressure. The past 18 months have seen a great deal of soul-searching in the fundraising community and led to the creation of initiatives such as the Commission on the Donor Experience, whose stated aim is to "change fundraising for good". The fundraising think tank Rogare is also seeking to address questions about how charities should fundraise in the future.

The IoF must work hard to show it represents the interests of the broad fundraising community, and not just those working for the largest charities. Many smaller charities felt badly let down by the actions of larger charities and the agencies they employ.

The most recent chairs of the IoF have all come from some of the largest fundraising charities: Taylor is currently head of fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support and before that held the same role at Cancer Research UK; his predecessor was Mark Astarita, head of fundraising at the British Red Cross. It would therefore seem wise for the IoF to give serious consideration to its next chair coming from outside the small circle of heads of fundraising from the very largest charities.

Existing IoF trustees include Danielle Atkinson, head of individual giving at Plan International UK, Kath Abrahams, director of engagement and fundraising at Diabetes UK, and Liz Tait, director of fundraising at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Whether they, or the any of the existing board members, will be willing to put forward their names remains to be seen.

But it is vital for the charity sector as a whole that quality candidates do come forward. Fundraising is operating in a brave new world of tighter regulation, increased public and political scrutiny and a growing need for charities to generate voluntary income. The IoF will need a strong chair to lead it through the many challenges that lie ahead: someone who is willing to stand up for and criticise the fundraising profession when necessary.

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