Donations likely to drop in short term after Olive Cooke case, says IoF chair

Richard Taylor tells an Institute of Fundraising Convention panel that there will be a hit, but he expects voluntary income to level out at some point

Donations likely to go down, says Taylor
Donations likely to go down, says Taylor

Charities should expect donations to drop in the short term because of the criticism the sector suffered after the Olive Cooke case, according to Richard Taylor, chair of the Institute of Fundraising.

Taylor, who is also outgoing executive director of fundraising and marketing at Cancer Research UK, was speaking at a panel discussion this morning at the IoF Convention in London, which focused on the changes made to the IoF Code of Fundraising Practice since Cooke’s death in May.

He said the sector should expect its voluntary income to decline in the short term because of the criticism that had been levelled at it in the past two months.

Taylor said he would urge each charity to ask their financial analysts to calculate the effects of the current situation on their income and make their trustees aware of this so that fundraisers were not expected to bear all the responsibility.

He said charities would at some point need to negotiate down their fundraising targets. But he said he expected incomes to level out at some point.

Also on the panel, Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said it was reviewing the sanctions it could use against members who failed to comply with the code. Asked by an audience member what measures were being considered, he declined to elaborate.

McLean said that changes being made to the code would have significant effects on the sector. But he said it was frustrating that the self-regulatory bodies were not being given the time they needed to make the changes, although this was partly because the sector had lost control of the agenda.

He told Third Sector after the session that he believed the government and media were now commanding the agenda.

He acknowledged that some of the changes being made would lose the sector money, but said: "Was that money being given fairly or because people were under pressure?"

Another panellist, Tanya Steele, executive director of marketing, fundraising and communications at Save the Children and an IoF trustee, told delegates one of the problems the regulators faced was that the IoF code had been "run on a shoestring" for too long.

She said the sector needed to fundamentally reconsider how to support self-regulation. She said the increasing criticism of fundraising would have a short-term financial effect on charities but it was difficult to say how great this would be.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, told delegates that the majority of fundraising was done to a very high standard and it was easy for fundraisers "to go round self-flagellating in this debate". He said the sector "must not cut off its nose to spite its face" because fundraising was vital to society.

Within a lot of charities, he said, trustees and senior executives were not taking enough responsibility for fundraising issues when things went wrong, but were happy to share in the glory when fundraising was viewed as a success.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the Charity Commission, said of public unease about fundraising: "It is there, it is real and it is not just the Daily Mail."

She said the sector bodies should not let their conversation about increasing good practice become too "bitty" and competitive, and they should recognise that not all their recommendations would work for every organisation.

Tim Hunter, director of fundraising at Oxfam, which was one of the charities implicated in the Mail’s investigation, published today, asked from the audience whether the Information Commissioner had been correct when stating on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that it was appropriate for fundraisers to contact existing supporters who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

Four of the five panellists declined to answer the question, but Steele said the Information Commissioner had said it was possible to contact these donors only when they gave explicit consent, and it was not clear how explicit that consent needed to be.

Taylor said it should not be forgotten that most people who were registered with the TPS did not realise they were.

The session was held before McLean and Lewis were due to meet Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, this morning to talk about the measures they have been taking to improve fundraising standards over the past two months.

Wilson was contacted by the Daily Mail to comment on its latest investigation into fundraising practice, published today, although it is not known if this was the motivation for the meeting.

Lewis told Third Sector that the IoF, the FRSB and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association had sent a letter to Wilson on Friday providing an update of the actions they had taken since their previous meeting with Wilson last month.

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