FRSB to charge larger charities more

Increased membership fees for larger charities, a lower recruitment target, and a new advisory forum to boost membership engagement are among measures announced today by The Fundraising Standards Board.

The FRSB, which has 900 members, says the measures will take it into "a new phase of development", aimed at ensuring "a strong and financially sustainable scheme for the future".

The new fee structure means an increase for charities with an income above £50m from £1,800 to £5,000 a year. Those with income between £500k and £50m will also have increases on a sliding scale in proportion to their incomes. Fees for smaller charities earning under £500k will not change, and 70 per cent of current members will have no increase.

The target for recruiting new members has been reduced from between 4,000 and 5,000 by June 2010 to 2,000 by the same date. This follows consultation with the Office of the Third Sector and reflects a slower recruitment rate than originally expected.

The new advisory forum follows discussions with a group of fundraising directors from large charities about perceptions that fundraisers are not adequately represented and that the FRSB has been too focused on complaints.

The function and structure of the forum will be discussed at a members meeting in September and the FRSB hopes to implement the new panel by June 2009.

Jon Scourse, chief executive of the FRSB, said it would be looking to members for greater commitment to branding and helping build public awareness from its current rating of 5 per cent to 7 per cent, this year. "We want it to be natural for people to give to charities registered with us but that's not going to happen overnight," he said. "It's vital for us to get the help of bigger charities and organisations."

Paul Amadi, chair of the Institute of Fundraising, urged charities to support the changes. "My sincere request to fundraisers and fundraising organisations is to continue to work with the institute to ensure that these and other reforms that are likely to be necessary, make the substantive improvements to ensure the success of a self-regulatory environment."

Scourse said the new fee structure would be more equitable. "The original model was based on a low fee structure with a large membership and there was a huge imbalance between what large and small charities were paying relative to their income," he said. "We are working towards a more balanced structure."

Currently, smaller charities pay the equivalent of 30 pence per £10,000 of voluntary income compared with only 8 pence per £10,000 for charities with larger incomes. The changes mean large organisations will now pay more, however they will continue to pay less per £10,000 than small charities.

"We recognise that and we want to rebalance it in the course of time," said Scourse, "but we can't do it in one year because the level of fee increase would be phenomenal."

He said the FRSB was on course to be self-sufficient when Government funding ended next June. "If we have enough members we can operate as long as it is a more realistic fee structure," he said.

The regulatory body also intends to simplify the joining process, including the development of an online registration form, to encourage more members. "One of the challenges in the next year will be to kick-start charities into joining," said Scourse. "We need to show them that it's not that difficult."

The process for reporting complaints is also to be reviewed, following confusion from members over their first annual returns this year. The FRSB is already working on a manual to help members handle complaints more effectively and is developing a UK-wide training programme to help clarify the definition of a complaint and when a communication from the public should be recognised as such (Third Sector Online, 9 July ).

Scourse said many of the larger charities have their own definitions of what is a complaint. "There is a huge range of definitions between charities," he said. "It's never been easy to settle on a common one that is acceptable."

Scourse said he believes the FRSB has achieved most of its targets so far and he looks forward to taking the organisation forward into a new phase. "We are trying to work towards a greater consistency. We are learning - we don't have a road map," he said.


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