Editorial: Face-to-face at a crossroads

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association has a crucial role in self-regulation, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

Our survey on face-to-face fundraising shows that 17 per cent of respondents think it does a valuable job and 37 per cent believe it to be important but annoying. Put together, those figures form a majority, but with a large sceptical element. Polls aren't definitive, but this is probably a reasonable summary of public attitudes.

The downside of face-to-face is easy to tap into, as the media does occasionally. Many people dislike it - 37 per cent in our poll - and some practitioners cut corners. Backbench MPs feel something needs to be done, and ministers want to respond without having to pull out a big stick.

The upside is fragile, finely balanced and needs careful fostering if that somewhat equivocal majority is going to be maintained. Herein lies the challenge for the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which coincidentally has appointed a new chief executive this week.

As our feature shows, the PFRA has a creditable 10-year record of negotiating agreements with local authorities to control and limit the frequency and location of face-to-face in town centres. It's not far from signing up most of the major cities, although there are some pockets of scepticism. There's qualified support from the Local Government Association.

Lord Hodgson's recent review of the Charities Act 2006 said that licences should be required for direct debit collections, as for cash collections, and that councils should be encouraged to go down the PFRA route. But he also indicated that this route would be a lot more attractive if the existing system of self-regulation, which involves the Institute of Fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board and the PFRA, was simplified and made less confusing for the world at large.

At the moment the PFRA denies there is any confusion, which doesn't augur well for the negotiations about this that are due to take place. But if the participants don't respond to the call to simplify things, the government might prioritise the licensing legislation that would empower more local councils to do without the PFRA.

- See the results of our survey

- Read about the history and rules of self-regulation

- See what the sector thinks about self-regulation in our debate 

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