Face-to-face agencies have more power in PFRA than charity members, report says

The review of fundraising self-regulation, carried out by PwC, concludes that agencies regard the PFRA as a key forum but charities see it as less important than the Institute of Fundraising

Face-to-face fundraising
Face-to-face fundraising

Face-to-face fundraising agency members of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association appear to be more powerful than charity members, even though charities have a majority of votes on its decision-making body, according to the recent government-financed report on fundraising regulation.

The report says that agencies on the PFRA’s board see it as a key forum, but charities see it as less important than the Institute of Fundraising and generally nominate junior fundraisers to represent them. There is the perception both inside and outside the PFRA, the report says, that charity voices are not loud enough.

The report concludes that PFRA, which negotiates agreements for face-to-face with local councils and enforces its rules with a system of fines, is seen more of an "access-to-business provider" for agencies than a regulator. This damages its credibility as a regulator, it says, and it should drop the word regulatory from its name.

The report by the professional services firm PwC was commissioned by the PFRA, the IoF and the Fundraising Standards Board after recommendations were made in Lord Hodgson’s report in 2012 of the Charities Act 2006. The full PwC report, seen by Third Sector, contains an appraisal of all three organisations that was not in a summary released last week.

The section on the PFRA says that members believe it should be engaged in advocacy for face-to-face fundraising, but that this would be another conflict with its role as regulator. It says that the PFRA never conducts mystery shopping in some areas and some members might never be monitored. "The PFRA is very focused on London, so charities operating at a regional level may be falling under the radar," it says.

Sally de la Bedoyere, chief executive of the PFRA, declined to comment on the full report.

The Fundraising Standards Board

The report says the FRSB should be more proactive in checking charities’ compliance with the IoF Code of Fundraising Practice. But it says its resources for this are limited and an improvement might be difficult unless it receives "significant extra funding".

The report also says some charities do not see any value in the FRSB tick logo, which puts them off joining. It says membership of the organisation needs to increase, especially among charities with incomes of more than £1m. Some of these have not joined because they already have strong internal compliance processes, it says; one solution could be to make it compulsory for larger charities to be members.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said he was pleased with the report and its observations were reasonable. On proactive compliance checking, he said: "We’re continuing to develop the way we carry out our audit programme, enforcing the code of practice and building our resources and income and developing that competence and capability over time."

On the concern that not all charities wanted to be members, he said: "We’ve grown our membership significantly over recent times and I’m confident that we’ll continue to do that."

The Institute of Fundraising

The report highlights the lack of engagement among some IoF members with the changes made to the Code of Fundraising Practice, and cites feedback that the revised code was more difficult for fundraisers to use than earlier versions.

The IoF could extend its reach and influence by promoting individual rather than corporate membership, the report says, making it a norm for all charity fundraising staff to be members. It notes that the IoF currently spends 6 per cent of its funding on self-regulation, while the FRSB spends 100 per cent and the PFRA spends 67 per cent; it says the IoF "has not made an unrestricted surplus for the last few years".

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said the report was useful food for thought: "For example, PwC has made it clear that the IoF’s role is in setting fundraising standards through our Code of Fundraising Practice, and we welcome the points made about closer liaison with the FRSB to ensure that we best use intelligence gathered from complaints to inform and improve those standards. We also have a clear role in delivering training and building the skills of fundraisers as well as representing the voice of the fundraising sector."

Susannah Birkwood

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