Face-to-face fundraising is 'a blight on the sector', Charity Commission chair tells MPs

William Shawcross says the responsibility to make sure fundraisers' behaviour does not offend people lies with trustees

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

Face-to-face fundraising is "a blight on the charity sector", William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, has told a committee of MPs.

Giving evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee as part of its inquiry into regulation in the charity sector, Shawcross said charity trustees must control the way their charities carry out face-to-face fundraising.

He was answering a question from Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover & Deal, who asked if a tighter regulatory framework was needed for face-to-face fundraising.

"I think it’s very upsetting to people," Shawcross said. "Most people don’t like being accosted in sometimes quite a belligerent and persistent manner in the streets. My view is that it’s up to the trustees of a charity to make that not happen. They should make sure they collect funds in a way that does not offend people."

Sam Younger, chief executive of the commission, said in the same session that data collected by the commission had found that face-to-face fundraising was one of the "key potential drivers of a lack of confidence in charities".

But he said that the commission had no powers as yet to govern fundraising, because powers introduced in the 2006 act had never entered law.

Instead, he said, the existing self-regulatory framework had been introduced, which he said was seen in Lord Hodgson’s review of the 2006 act as "sufficiently successful to be worth pursuing further".

He said that if the commission was to take over regulation of street fundraising the cost could be as much as £4m a year.

Younger also questioned whether the commission would be the right organisation to manage fundraising, and said primary responsibility should be with local authorities.

Elphicke said that he felt the public would be very happy to see tighter controls over chugging.

"My concern is this: this is so serious that it’s damaging the reputation of all charities," said Elphicke. "I think if we said to the man on the street that we could spend £4m to deal with the problem of chugging in this country and boost the reputation of charities, they would feel that was money well spent."

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