IoF offered to cut connection between standards committee and board, says Peter Lewis

The chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising says it did this in an attempt to maintain control of the fundraising code as the Etherington review approached completion

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis

The Institute of Fundraising offered to cut the connection between its standards committee and its board in an attempt to retain control of the Code of Fundraising Practice, according to Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF.

Speaking to Third Sector about Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of the self-regulation of fundraising, Lewis said the IoF had attempted to address the review panel’s concerns about the fact that the IoF board has had the final say on any changes to the code.

The IoF had done this by offering to make the standards committee independent from its board, Lewis said.

But the review, published on Wednesday says instead that the code should be moved to a fundraising practice committee hosted by a new fundraising regulator. "The recent commitment to appoint an independent chair and some independent members to the standards committee by the IoF addresses some concerns but does not resolve the problem caused by the fact that final decisions are made by the IoF board," the review says.

Lewis said: "We think we’ve appointed a very good independent chair now in Suzanne McCarthy and we’ve brought on lay members. We hope that in the transition plans they take forward some of the changes that we’ve made."

Asked if McCarthy would continue to serve in the role, Lewis said: "At the moment it’s our standards committee and it’s our code. The first priority in Stuart’s report is to set up a new regulator because the Fundraising Standards Board is not fit for purpose. Then the target is for the new regulator to have the code in 18 months."

The review says that a summit should take place as a "matter of urgency" to formalise the transition from the existing regulatory arrangement to the new system and to decide on the steps that must be taken to set up the new fundraising regulator and give it responsibility for the code.

It says that the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee should review the progress made by the regulator in 18 months’ time.

Lewis said that it must have been difficult and sad for the FRSB to learn that it was now likely to be closed down, but this outcome was what IoF members had wanted in order to maintain public trust and confidence. He said the FRSB had already had several years since the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006 to start using tougher sanctions or ask for extra resources to do a better job.

He dismissed the recent assertion by Andrew Hind, the new chair of the FRSB, that the FRSB’s requests for changes to the code should have been accepted as standard practice except in exceptional circumstances, saying that the FRSB had not historically had the right expertise to change the code.

Lewis said he had sent an email to Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, on Tuesday morning, expressing his condolences.

Lewis said that although previous reviews, such as Hodgson’s, had not led to significant changes to fundraising regulation, he expected Etherington’s review to be taken seriously. But he said it would become more apparent how influential it would be once the proposed summit had been held.

He declined to say whether the IoF planned to accept all the review’s recommendations or if it would lobby against some of the proposals.

Asked for his view on the Fundraising Preference Service, which the review says should be set up to enable people to opt out from all telephone and mail fundraising, Lewis said the IoF had produced a scoping paper on the proposal, which it would submit to the new regulator. The contents of the paper were private, he said.

But in a blog published on the IoF website on Wednesday, he said the IoF would be calling on fundraisers to feed into Etherington’s more "controversial" proposals, such as the preference service.

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