INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Institute gives opinion on Strategy Unit's proposals

LINDSAY BOSWELL, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

The article this week spells out the views of the Institute, as they currently stand, about the recommendations to regulate fundraising made by the Strategy Unit report.

This singles out fundraising as having a poor image in the eyes of the public. This opinion is influenced by anecdotal evidence although the research to support this view is both limited and conflicting. Should the fundraising sector be worried?

Although the Institute is not convinced that we are facing an erosion of trust, we believe that "evidence" for or against this supposition is not material at this point. It is right and sensible to take steps now to ensure high levels of trust and confidence.

Strategy Unit proposals

- The setting up of a new fundraising body to develop the co-regulatory initiative.

- This body establishes a new Code of Practice.

- This body is charged with promoting this code to the public.

- The body should be self-financing through a levy on donated income.

- The scheme would be voluntary.

- The Home Secretary would have the power to legislate for statutory regulation if this system didn't work.

- The new body should be independent.

Institute recommendations

- The setting up of a new and independent "Fundraising Regulatory Board" to adjudicate on complaints about the fundraising process.

- That the board should be composed of:

A minority of representatives from the sector;

Majority representation from external stakeholders appointed following consultation including government and the sector;

Observers drawn from government and the regulators (including the Charity Commission and Home Office).

- That the board should use the existing Code of Conduct, Donors' Charter and Codes of Fundraising Practice of the Institute as the basis against which the board adjudicates on complaints received.

- That the Institute should continue as the membership body responsible for co-ordinating the production of the Codes of Practice and the evolution and promotion of existing codes, consulting the board during the development of new codes and the evolution of existing ones.

- That the new regulatory board should be funded by government but that the activities of the Institute in developing codes, promoting awareness of them and assisting in compliance should be funded through the membership structure (although seed-corn funding would be necessary to develop existing structures) and not through a levy on donations.

- The Institute believes that the responsibility to ensure an evolutionary and flexible system of developing Codes of Fundraising Practice, capable of responding swiftly to changes in fundraising practice, must rest with the Institute.

- That membership of the Institute should continue to be voluntary, but that sanctions should be agreed that allow the board to censure the activities of all fundraising organisations, including non-member organisations.

- That submission to the adjudication of the board and acceptance of its sanctions should become a condition of membership of the Institute.

- That levels and structures of sanction should be agreed between the board and the Institute as part of the process of developing the new regulatory structure.

- That the Institute should be responsible for supporting member organisations in effectively addressing and resolving complaints following the adjudication of the board.

- We believe that building both on the Institute's 20 years' experience in developing Codes of Fundraising Practice and on the support for them is the most effective route to developing a co-regulatory structure for fundraising.

The additional costs of a regulatory board would be significantly less than those involved in the creation of an entirely new body. We believe the model we propose would be viable without a levy on voluntary income. The full text of our draft position to date can be found on www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk.

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