How the new fines system will work for street fundraising

The move by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association is aimed at strengthening self-regulation

Toby Ganley, head of policy at the PFRA
Toby Ganley, head of policy at the PFRA

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which regulates face-to-face fundraising, announced a system of fines last week for street fundraisers who flout new rules.

The fines are another attempt by the PFRA to raise confidence in street fundraising and the behaviour of practitioners. It has also been working with an increasing number of local authorities and town centre managers to negotiate site-management agreements that define where and when street fundraisers can operate.

So how will the fines work and will they be effective? The newly published PFRA Rule Book (Street) determines what is and is not acceptable and how breaches will be dealt with.

The book is based on the PFRA’s interpretation of the Institute of Fundraising’s code of practice on face-to-face fundraising and additional rules put in place by the PFRA itself.

Under the scheme, an agency or charity that is a PFRA member will incur penalty points if its street fundraisers are caught breaking rules by either of the two people in the PFRA’s standards team.

They will be ‘fined’ 20, 50 or 100 points, depending on the severity of the breach. Each point has a value of £1, and if an organisation accrues more than 1,000 points a year, it will be billed the equivalent amount in pounds. This money will be given to the PFRA as unrestricted income.

Toby Ganley, head of policy at the PFRA, says the main goal is to improve standards. He says charities and agencies will receive monthly breakdowns of how many points they have accumulated for which offences, and adds this will "help our members address their standards issues".

Ganley says members will be able to appeal to the PFRA’s standards and practice committee, but any that refuse to pay will be contacted by a debt-collection agency.

"The way self-regulation works is that when members join they agree to abide by the rules," he says. "This is going to be treated like any invoice."

The new system has significantly increased the PFRA’s level of self-regulation. Members have been consulted on the idea and many have reacted positively to the move.

Gareth Moore, director of the agency AAP Fundraising, which is a trading arm of the animal charity the Aspinall Foundation, says it is important that the public believes professionalism is taken seriously by street fundraisers.

"It’s important in the long run that the regulator is perceived to have some power," he adds. "I believe they will have greater authority in regulating the rules with this."

Lawrence Simanowitz, a partner in the charities team at the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, who is also on the board of the Fundraising Standards Board, says that self-regulators are in a notoriously difficult position.

He points out that they do not have the same sanctions as government regulators, so they need to find other ways of enforcing their rules.

"For self-regulation to work, those regulators have to have strong sanctions at their disposal, otherwise you have to go one stage higher and have a government regulator," he says.

Mark Astarita, chair of the IoF and director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, which uses both agency and in-house street fundraisers, agrees.

"We need to make sure the rule book is enforced," he says. "Whether or not fines are the right answer, only time will tell."

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