Getting the measure of Richard Taylor

The chair of the Institute of Fundraising talks to Susannah Birkwood about the recommendations outlined in its recent review of self-regulation, including his view of future relations between the three bodies involved

Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor

At first sight, Richard Taylor might not be the obvious candidate to become chair of the Institute of Fundraising and take on the considerable challenges it faces. For a start, his day job is running the largest charity fundraising department in the country – Cancer Research UK has an astonishing 2,000 fundraisers.

But senior figures at the IoF were convinced that Taylor had the key quality it required – the ability to set an agreed strategy and follow it through. So they put their trust in the adage that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person and, after some manoeuvring behind the scenes, Taylor agreed to take it on; fortunately, he had recently ceased serving on various other committees and boards. But how on earth will he fit the new job in?

"The role at the IoF is very much supported by CRUK, so I'm not just trying to shoehorn it in," he says. "I'm practised at giving time to the IoF, so it's not all incremental. I think I can balance it."

Taylor already has his priorities lined up for the IoF, starting with the consolidation of the financial stability he believes it has attained over the past three years under his predecessor, Mark Astarita, fundraising director at the British Red Cross. Then there's influencing the government before next year's general election on issues such as allowing Gift Aid on society lottery tickets, calling for the rule that society lotteries must give at least 20 per cent of takings to good causes to be applied over three years instead of one, and allowing charities rather than donor companies to collect the Gift Aid on corporate donations.

A third matter high on Taylor's agenda is taking on the recommendations in the government-funded review of fundraising self-regulation by the professional services firm PwC, published in July. Commissioned jointly by the IoF, the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, it analysed the effectiveness of the three organisations and listed a string of measures that could be implemented to improve them.

The most striking observation in the report was that the three bodies lacked the trust required to work together effectively. It said this was causing inefficiency, was a drain on limited resources and that relationships between the three organisations were not strong enough to allow information to flow efficiently between them. It also criticised the bodies for their lack of a common strategy or communication plan.

Taylor is keen to focus on the future. "The review has encouraged people to defend what they believe in and what they do, but I don't think it has identified a particularly meaningful example of mistrust," he says. "Of course, there have been historical differences of opinion, but we now have clear agreement on purpose, remit and, most importantly, how to progress to a shared strategy. The three parties should be judged by the delivery of the review's outcomes and recommendations, not the spurious suggestion that personalities can't work together."

"Every penny we as a charity put into regulation is a penny less spent, in CRUK's case, on saving lives"

Taylor is more enthusiastic about the report's recommendation that the FRSB be allocated a seat on the IoF standards committee, a move he believes will help strengthen the "feedback loop" between the public, the donor and the fundraiser. A good example of this could be seen earlier this year, Taylor says, when the FRSB asked the IoF to review its Code of Fundraising Practice, after complaints – which were not upheld – against Marie Curie Cancer Care and the animal charity the PDSA. Some fundraisers were frustrated by requests to change the code as a result of cases where the charities concerned were found not to be at fault; but Taylor was not. Instead, he views the code as organic and editable whenever the need arises.

He is less taken with the report's call for the FRSB to be a more proactive regulator because this would require significant extra funding. Recognising that this would mean a hike in membership fees – the FRSB's main source of funding – Taylor appears to empathise with charities that feel they can ill afford to pay more. "Every penny we as a charity put into regulation is a penny less spent, in CRUK's case, on saving lives," he says.

He also believes that, given the comprehensiveness of the code, the report is naive about the size of the task it is asking the FRSB to perform. "I wouldn't know where the FRSB would start," he says. "My charity has 2,000 fundraisers and we're just one charity. It would require armies to do that and would be a black hole for resources."

Taylor says a better approach for the FRSB – one that he acknowledges could also require extra resources – would be to check compliance when issues arise. Also, when complaints are not resolved by charities and are passed up to the regulator, he says, it should look more for evidence that a charity has addressed the concern and modified its practices before sending it to the third stage of the procedure, when complaints are referred to the FRSB board for adjudication.

Some in the sector appear to see it as a weakness that the FRSB can uphold a complaint only when a charity has fallen foul of the code – what, for example, about charities that are guilty of misconduct that isn't covered by the existing rules? But Taylor actually sees this as a confirmation of transparency. If the FRSB were able to look beyond the code when invigilating charities, fundraisers would be unclear about which practices to avoid, he says.

He also believes it's wrong for more than one body to be setting fundraising rules and is throwing his weight firmly behind the PwC proposal for the IoF code, the FRSB's Fundraising Promise and the PFRA Rule Book to be amalgamated.

What about possible expansion of the IoF? In January, confidential plans, seen by Third Sector, revealed that it was considering a scheme, which was not pursued, to combine its membership with that of the FRSB. Then there was a proposal, announced in April, to merge the Institute of Legacy Management with the IoF, but this was put on hold after a membership revolt at the ILM. And now the PwC report suggests the PFRA should become part of the IoF and that the IoF should have a place on the FRSB board.

Taylor talks each of these points down. "As the IoF's representative on the FRSB at the time, I can tell you that there was no sense or desire for us to take it over," he says. "Historically, other people I have worked with might have regretted cutting the FRSB free from the IoF in the first place, but I actually think that was the right thing to do. Its independence is essential for it to work; I don't want the FRSB to be part of the IoF."

He says that it was the ILM that approached the IoF about a merger and that, although the IoF would like to broaden its reach, it is urging the ILM to ensure it has consulted fully with its members before coming to a final decision. As for the PFRA board representation, Taylor sees this as a way for the three regulatory bodies to improve their engagement with one another. "It's got nothing to do with any desire to take control," he says. And he adds that he doesn't currently see the benefit of the PFRA becoming a subsidiary of the IoF, as the PwC report proposes, and that such a move would have to be driven by the PFRA.

When asked what the biggest ethical issues are in the sector generally, Taylor says the charity community needs to work together on instilling trust and confidence in supporters by being as transparent as possible. Otherwise, he thinks it is for each charity to account for its own practices individually in matters such as investment, pay and impact reporting – and not give too much attention to what he calls the "media noise" around issues such as senior executive salaries. Given their limited resources, he says, it is right for charities to choose the dialogue they have with their supporters, rather than imparting a message imposed upon them by the rest of the sector – a reference to the call by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations for charities to display details and justifications of their highest-paid staff's salaries on their websites.

Senior executive salaries are an issue mainly affecting the larger charities such as his own, but Taylor believes himself more than capable of speaking out on issues affecting organisations of any size, which is important, given that about half of all IoF members have incomes of less than £1m. He has experience at small charities such as the Neuro Foundation, which supports people affected by neurofibromatosis, and Willows Counselling, which provides debt advice; he also believes that fundraisers across the spectrum of charity sizes and cause areas tend to face the same challenges.

One of the first things he wants to do as chair is have a dialogue with his fundraising counterparts around the country. "I can absolutely relate to them," he says. "What we do at CRUK, out in the field with our supporters, is very similar, if not exactly the same, as what lone fundraisers and small charities are doing. The heart of it is being very conscious that you put the donor first. You move heaven and earth for your supporter."

Is Taylor the man for the job?

The key outward-facing challenge for the IoF, according to observers, is developing the new relationship with the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, as outlined in the recent report by PwC.

But these are closely followed, they say, by the need to develop the IoF's relationship with the government, influence the evolution of new EU data-protection proposals and refresh the successful annual convention. Internal challenges are said to include developing the abilities of the executive team and the board, and building up individual membership.

Lynda Thomas – director of fundraising at Macmillan Cancer Support and IoF board representative on the FRSB

Richard is a collaborative colleague, but holds teams to account for delivery of plans. Together with Peter Lewis, the chief executive, he's in the best position possible to determine the future direction of the IoF. His focus on individual membership is right – it is the bedrock of the institute and our 5,000 members from charities big and small deserve to be equipped with the skills to become great fundraisers. We also need to focus on influencing, especially in this election year.

Stephen Pidgeon – outgoing IoF board member and standards committee chair

I have a huge admiration for his ability to manage things. If you need to see him, he makes time and gives you his whole attention. Mind you, I wouldn't want to have a meeting with him if I'd not done my homework. My talking to him about taking on the chair apparently came at the right time, so I was lucky. Gone are the days when anybody willing to stand should be considered – the chair of the institute should be a current leader in a strong charity.

Amanda Shephard – consultant and former IoF director of development

I firmly believe Richard Taylor will make a huge difference. He seems to be alive to the job at hand and full of ideas for realising the potential. There won't be too much 'running for the hills showing petticoats'-type rhetoric, as there was from his predecessor, but setting about internal challenges, strong strategy and action? I think so. I was pleased that he said the FRSB and the IoF should remain separate. That is right – but it was not the prevailing view when I was there.

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