FRSB says most fundraising organisations should be obliged to become members

Alistair McLean, the fundraising regulator's chief executive, urges a system of 'self-regulation plus'

Alistair McLean
Alistair McLean

All fundraising charities and organisations with annual voluntary incomes above a certain level should be obliged to become members of the Fundraising Standards Board, according to the fundraising regulator.

In its response to Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006, the FRSB suggests a system it calls "self-regulation plus", to strengthen the system of regulation. It says this would involve some form of obligation on all fundraising charities and organisations with annual voluntary incomes above a certain level to become members of the FRSB. This level should be similar to the level prevailing at the time with the Charity Commission, the response says.

The review is considering all areas of charity law, including the rules governing fundraising.

The FRSB’s response to the review says its proposed regulatory model would increase the level of funding for the FRSB, which has more than 1,350 members, received through membership fees. 

"If there was a greater obligation placed on all legitimate fundraising charities to be members of the FRSB, those operating outside the law would be easier to spot," it says. "If the FRSB had sufficient funding to promote awareness, monitor compliance and administer effective and proportionate sanctions, standards would improve and public confidence would grow."

To support greater levels of sign-up, the FRSB suggests a number of new incentives, including restricting public fundraising licences to FRSB member charities.

"There is the possibility that the review will take a position on public licences and the administration of them," it says. "Whatever recommendation is made on this matter, we would recommend that public collections licences should be issued only to FRSB members."

The response says there should be greater public acknowledgement by the Charity Commission and other strategic partners that fundraising charities have an obligation to be members of the FRSB.

"This could, for example, take the form of the commission asking all charities to declare in their annual returns if they are members of the FRSB and encouraging all those that aren’t to join," it says.

The FRSB says that 37 per cent of complaints that come directly from members of the public are about non-members’ fundraising practices. "While the FRSB follows these up, there is limited redress for us when dealing with the charity, and the negative impact on public confidence remains," the response says.

The FRSB believes it should have stronger sanctions against members that breach the Institute of Fundraising’s codes of practice, which should include the power to impose fines as a last resort – a measure the FRSB’s chief executive, Alistair McLean, told Third Sector earlier this month it was considering. The response also says it should audit charities before they sign up to become members.  

So that it can grow in scale and build public awareness of its work, the FRSB suggests other methods to increase its funding, including taking a small proportion of Gift Aid. It says it would need wide consultation before being implemented.

McLean said: "The charity sector has been quick to adapt to self-regulation and commit to best practice and should be congratulated for that commitment. But the key to strengthening the scheme further is in engaging many more members."

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