EDITORIAL: Voluntary sector must help clarify fundraising laws

Lucy Maggs

The face-to-face fundraising debate is still raging in the voluntary sector. Is face-to-face fundraising a very effective way of raising money and recruiting givers who are really committed to your cause, or is the daily slalom along the high street seriously damaging public opinion of charities?

One of the major complaints from the sector has been that the overcrowding of certain areas by face-to-face fundraisers is caused by the arbitrary way in which public fundraising licences are granted. In London they are issued by the police, whereas in the rest of the country it is down to local authorities, who have very different criteria for issuing licences.

As a result, certain areas are overrun with face-to-face fundraisers, and other areas are completely untapped.

The Government has issued a consultation on the licensing of public fundraising, the results of which will feed into the charities bill, in an attempt to create some kind of consistency in the granting of licences. It suggests that any charity wishing to use face-to-face fundraising or house collections should apply to one lead local authority for a licence, which would then issue a statement to be presented to other authorities when applying to fundraise in their boroughs. The stamp of approval from one authority would effectively enable charities to take part in public fundraising around the country.

But under this proposal, local authorities would still be able to turn down applications on the basis that there is no capacity for the area to support more public fundraising. The definition of capacity in the final bill will be crucial if this licensing system is to succeed. If it is not clear, the issuing of licences will be open to the interpretation of the word 'capacity' by individual local authorities. Organisations involved in public fundraising need to pull together to make sure this, and other details, are properly laid out. The ball is in the voluntary sector's court.

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