Government should review role of IoF, says former director Stephen Lee

At a Cass Business School event, Lee says the Institute of Fundraising is failing to meet the needs of individual fundraisers and should rewrite its values

Stephen Lee
Stephen Lee

The government should conduct a review of public fundraising and scrutinise the role of the Institute of Fundraising, according to Stephen Lee, a former director of the membership body.

Speaking at an event called "How to Make Fundraising Effective, Legitimate and Ethical", held by Cass Business School in London last night, Lee also revealed that publication of a report on the major review of charity governance Cass has been conducting over the past year with the Charity Commission and the Cranfield Trust had been delayed by the general election.

Lee, professor of voluntary sector management at Cass, said in his speech that the IoF was failing to address the needs of individual fundraisers and needed to rewrite the values on which its strategy was based.

Amanda Bringans, who will chair the IoF from July, defended the IoF at the event, saying she was proud to be a member.

Lee called for a "full and frank review of public fundraising" by government, which he said was urgently needed to provide "an acceptable, equitable, justifiable system of public fundraising".

He added: "That should also include a review of the role the Institute of Fundraising plays currently through its merger with the Public Fundraising Association, where a self-regulatory body is both a player in the market and seeking to regulate it, which I think doesn’t bode well for the future."

Quite apart from the review, he said, work was needed to "sort out" the IoF.

"As an individual – and I’m sure as one in a small organisation geographically removed from London and the south east – I would be wringing my hands at the lack of representation the IoF has provided to me and my concerns through these past two years," he said.

"We need less concern with the large fundraising organisations within the institute, and more for the individuals and individual members."

He said the fact that the organisation had passed responsibility for the Code of Fundraising Practice to the Fundraising Regulator had left it in the unacceptable position of being an institute without standards.

"We cannot have legitimacy in the marketplace if we are not clear about our standards," he said. He added that the IoF’s official values were "not good values", and this needed to be addressed if the IoF was to challenge the Fundraising Regulator or the Information Commissioner’s Office when necessary.

During the question-and-answer session after Lee’s presentation, Bringans responded to his comments in a personal capacity because she had not yet officially taken up the role of chair.

"Like all organisations, we don’t always get everything right," she said. "But I do believe in the vision of the IoF, which is excellent fundraising. I do believe in understanding what that means so we can be very, very clear about what standards we are trying to aim for."

She thanked Lee for beginning a dialogue and said she wanted to continue it.

In a statement responding to Lee’s comments, an IoF spokeswoman said there would always be debate and discussion, but the IoF was supporting all of its members and promoting excellent fundraising.

"We are very proud of the fundraising community, the role we play as the IoF and of our growing network of vibrant groups in every region and nation in the country," she said.

"Given the issues the sector has faced in recent years, the work of the IoF and our members has never been more important.

Lee also called for the sector to support the new Fundraising Regulator, saying he believed this was the only way to prevent the introduction of statutory regulation.

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