INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: We need to show the public that we don't squander their money

PAUL FARTHING, MInstF is strategic development director at Target Direct

The pages of charity magazines and the conference bars are buzzing with debate about the Government's Strategy Unit report. The Government is planning a new body to regulate fundraising and fundraisers are taking the opportunity to shape the outcome and avoid some of the more pernicious options.

The Government is seeking greater accountability and to restore public confidence in voluntary organisations. Not least so they can more easily justify transferring greater welfare responsibility to the sector. Fundraisers want to restore their own image, perhaps to avoid the need to hide under the table when asked what they do for a living.

Yet the Government and the sector have failed to learn from recent events.

Even if the public trusted regulation beforehand, the Enron scandal destroyed that. And they will trust a new regulatory quango even less than they do charities.

We risk investing in a structure that will satisfy Government but do little to close the confidence gap with current and potential donors.

A gap so large that they think we spend two or three times more on administration than we do. A gap that risks hurting fundraising programmes in the long term.

The sector needs a "We are great value for money" campaign to rebuild the relationship between charity and donor, showing that we deliver great services, argue effectively for reform, while achieving a better return on investment. Changing hearts and minds requires a cross-sector, "all- speaking-with-one-voice" type of campaign. The Institute, NCVO and Charities Aid Foundation should lead a new coalition to restore public faith, not rely on a quango that the public is unlikely to ever trust.

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