Fundraising 'reset button' won't satisfy charities and donors, writes IoF chief Peter Lewis

In a blog on the Institute of Fundraising website, the chief executive says fundraisers need to be reassured that some proposals will work effectively for all parties

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, has raised concerns about the proposed Fundraising Preference Service and warned that a single "reset button" is unlikely to satisfy charities and donors.

In a blog published on the IoF’s website, Lewis sets out five challenges for the new system of fundraising self-regulation as put forward in a report by Sir Stuart Etherington, published in September.

Lewis says the new regulator must be independent and not afraid to hold fundraisers to account, but should also contain formal representation from fundraising experts.

He says the fundraising community needs reassurance that some of the specific proposals, including the Fundraising Preference Service, which will enable people to opt out of all charity mail and telephone fundraising, will work effectively for charities, fundraisers and beneficiaries, as well as for donors and the public.

"Our members understand how important it is to fundraise in a way that is open, honest and respectful of donor preferences, but a single ‘reset’ button for all fundraising communications would not meet this test," writes Lewis. "Nor is it likely to meet the needs or desires of the public who wish to continue to hear from charities they genuinely support.

"One of the trickiest issues here is how the regulator can ensure the voices of beneficiaries are heard, and many in the sector will be watching the regulator’s approach with interest."

His comments come after an IoF survey of 550 of its members found that 98 per cent of respondents believed donors should have a choice about what they receive, how it is sent and who sends it, rather than just a reset-button option.

A survey of more than 500 fundraisers by the think tank Rogare, part of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University, found that 77 per cent of respondents were against the introduction of a Fundraising Preference Service.

In his blog, Lewis says there has been much debate among fundraisers on issues such as how much the levy on fundraising charities to pay for the new regulator will be and how the proposed new fundraising practice committee and complaints committee will work.

"Never has it been truer that the devil really is in the detail," he writes.

Lewis’s comments come before the fundraising summit on Friday, at which Etherington, Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, and Lord Grade, interim chair of the new Fundraising Regulator, will discuss the recommendations in Etherington’s report with charity representatives.

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