The Institute of Fundraising is planning to consult its members on plans for a new accreditation programme for agencies and charities carrying out public fundraising.
The IoF said that launching such a programme, which would apply to all fundraising agencies and charities operating in-house street, door-to-door or private site fundraising teams, would send a strong signal to the public that charities were committed to high standards.
The news of the consultation, which the IoF plans to launch before Christmas, comes after the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator issued a statement last week warning charities about their arrangements with fundraising agencies.
Lord Grade, chair of the Fundraising Regulator, also said at a conference earlier this month that several of the regulator’s forthcoming investigations were likely to heighten the argument in favour of a licensing system.
Dominic Will, a trustee of the IoF and managing director of the door-to-door agency Home Fundraising, told Third Sector he strongly supported the creation of an accreditation scheme for agencies.
"If we had an independently audited system that recognised the agencies that had policies in place for everything from employment practices and service level agreements to data security measures and quality assurance schemes, it would help ensure the sustainability of the industry," he said.
The IoF also announced today that it had observed a significant improvement in street fundraising standards over the past six months.
It said that the total number of rule infractions recorded by mystery shoppers contracted by the membership body had fallen by 62 per cent – from an average of 38 per month in 2015/16 to 17 per month in the half-year from April to September 2016.
The IoF, which merged with the Public Fundraising Association in September, has carried out more than 2,000 mystery shops across the UK this year in a bid to ensure its members’ adherence to the requirements of its Street Fundraising Rulebook.
One of the most common breaches, the failure to provide solicitation statements which inform telling donors how much a fundraising agency is being paid, fell by 74 per cent compared with last year from an average of 13.4 a month in 2015/16 to 3.5 a month in the six months to September, the body said.
The IoF said that many of the rules – including wearing clearly branded charity clothing; approaching members of the public while they work; and approaching members of the public while seated or in cafés and restaurants – had seen "zero-reported breaches".
Peter Hills-Jones, the former PFRA chief executive who became the IoF’s compliance director following the merger, said the news was a huge improvement and "proof that self-regulation can be effective."
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said he welcomed the news.
The IoF’s mystery-shopping programme currently does not include private site fundraising but the body plans to consult members on establishing a permanent programme for private sites after carrying out what it described as a "successful" pilot programme involving several major charities earlier this year.
Hills-Jones said that moving the pilot on to a permanent footing would be an important step in ensuring a "consistent level of fundraiser standards across multiple channels".