Speaking from the audience at a seminar on charity fundraising hosted by the Westminster Social Policy Forum in London this morning, Michael Naidu, who served as acting chair of the PFRA between 2008 and 2012 and is the head of individual giving and legacy at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, asked Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, who was speaking on a panel, why the two organisations had decided to merge when the PFRA looked after compliance and the IoF was a trade body.
"I'm just wondering about the the logic of merging the Institute of Fundraising with the PFRA," said Naidu. "With the code of practice going over to the new regulator, along with the remit for dealing with complaints, why would you put compliance with what is in effect the trade body?"
He said that when he was chair of the PFRA, it was "very tricky to enforce compliance over members and to hold them to account".
He spoke about the points system the PFRA uses to fine members who break face-to-face fundraising rules, noting that the fines were "minute" amounts and sometimes members disagreed with the points they had received.
"So how you replicate that model from face-to-face to direct mail and the telephone is going to be incredibly difficult," he said.
Lewis responded by saying that the logic behind the decision was compelling and the two bodies planned to drive compliance standards up to such a level that there would be no complaints to the Fundraising Regulator.
He said they also intended to contribute to discussions about changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice and respond to consultations launched by the regulator. He said the IoF and the PFRA would defend fundraising practice in the press, making the point that most fundraising was done to a good standard.
The boards of the IoF and the PFRA are expected to vote to merge the two membership bodies in April, with the merger itself likely to take place in the following months.
Sir Stuart Etherington's review of fundraising self-regulation recommended that this should happen.
Lewis also spoke about the planned new Fundraising Preference Service. He said the IoF's view was that the new Fundraising Regulator should be able to offer a way for charities' supporters to that off their contact lists but that a single reset button which would allow people to block contact from all charities was not what the public wanted and would not be good for charities.
He said the system needed to be more sophisticated, allowing people to specify the charities they didn't want to hear from.
But the Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who also spoke on the panel, challenged Lewis, saying: "Are you saying I shouldn't be allowed to cancel all things? Why can't I say 'stop' to all of it?"
Lewis responded that the complexity of the discussion proved how difficult the situation was.