INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: The Strategy Unit is right, public trust is of priority

LINDSAY BOSWELL, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

The Strategy Unit report, Private Action, Public Benefit, covers four main areas: definition and status of charity; public trust and confidence, of which the regulation and reporting of fundraising is the principle component; the legal framework; and nature and role of the Charity Commission.

Fundraisers have an interest in all four areas but our clear priority lies with issues falling out of public trust and confidence.

The report paints a bleaker picture of the public's view of charities than we believe is really the case. Let's all be clear that, in general terms, there are considerable levels of trust in charities and I will be looking to back up that claim with some research results during the consultation period.

While it is important not to lose sight of this fact, it is even more important to recognise that the political climate has changed. We need to take active steps to reinforce trust and confidence. Everything that happens in other areas of public life show that only by taking active measures will we maintain levels of support.

This is nothing to do with charities but all to do with the general mistrust the public has with any aspect of the established order in a world where we have access to huge amounts of information.

Add to this a general lack of knowledge about how fundraising happens in most major charities (the "you mean you're paid to fundraise?

syndrome) and we have a potential problem. The report is seeking to address this.

It proposes a fundraising regulatory body that acts as the teeth to support best practice. It calls it "self-regulation

in as much as there is not a statute to cover its activities. The body would be independent of Government and the scheme would be voluntary.

Participating organisations would be subject to investigation, naming and shaming and ultimately expulsion if complaints against them by members of the public were upheld. Seed funding from Government would be available for the first few years and include publicity, but event-ually the scheme is seen as being self-financing.

If this model of self-regulation does not work then the Home Secretary will be given powers to introduce legislation.

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