Andrew Hind, the new chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, has criticised the Institute of Fundraising for involving organisations accused of fundraising malpractice in task groups that are considering whether it should amend its Code of Fundraising Practice.
The situation was "completely unacceptable", he said in an interview with Third Sector. Hind said that the task groups, formed in June to assess whether to accept the FRSB’s requested changes to the code after its investigation into the issues raised by the death of Olive Cooke, were made up of "conflicted individuals".
"The recommendations are being made by task groups with no independent representation, which in some cases include the very organisations that are the subject of investigations," Hind said. "At every level that is completely unacceptable. What does that do to the public’s perception of the objectivity of the process of revising the code?
"My fundamental concern [about the task groups] is that it is not a process that is going to command public confidence. And sooner or later, a parliamentary select committee or a minister or a senior opinion-former is going to ask what the basis was on which the IoF recommendations were drawn up, and who was responsible for that and what their backgrounds were."
The IoF, which disclosed the names of the chairs of its four task groups in June, said today that it would not reveal the names of the group members until Friday, when it planned to publish its final decisions about the code changes.
Last month the IoF replied to a letter from the FRSB about its concerns, saying that the task group members had all signed declarations of interest and that to exclude any of them because of the organisations they worked for would have been unfair, particularly given that there had not yet been a conclusion to any of the investigations of malpractice launched in recent months.
Hind compared the task groups to the IoF standards committee, which he believes cannot be fully independent while it remains housed within the IoF, despite the IoF’s move this summer to appoint an independent chair of the committee and recruit more lay members. He said the changes to the composition of the committee did not make its work independent because the IoF board currently got the final say on any code changes the committee recommended.
Hind said it should be standard procedure for the FRSB’s requests for changes to the code to be accepted, except in exceptional circumstances.
Hind – who starts on Wednesday, when he will attend the FRSB’s board meeting – said he had not been aware that the IoF was going to send an open letter on behalf of 17 charity chief executives to The Sunday Times last weekend, calling for a new regulator to be set up. "That was clearly an attempt by chief executives and the IoF, who were coming before the select committee two days later, to get their side of the story in first," he said.
At a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee last week, MPs questioned the leaders of the IoF, the FRSB, the Public Fundraising Association, Oxfam, the NSPCC, Save the Children and the RSPCA as part of its inquiry into call centre fundraising. Hind said at the meeting that he would welcome the opportunity for the FRSB to be questioned by the committee on a regular basis because it was in the public interest.
Asked for his view on the IoF calling for the FRSB to be replaced by the new regulator – something it told Third Sector as well as The Sunday Times – he said this was not something he had heard. "I don’t know every word that every one of these individuals has uttered on the subject in recent weeks and months," he said.
Setting out his vision for the FRSB’s future, Hind said the FRSB could become tougher by sending the recommendations from its stage 3 adjudications to the trustees of the charities concerned. "That has not been happening and is one of the reasons trustees have not been engaged as much as they should be," he said.
He said the recommendations should be published on the front page of the FRSB website and that where trustees failed to obey the recommendations, the Charity Commission should be asked to put red borders around a charity’s entry on the charities register, as is currently the case for charities that file their accounts late.
If the trustees still failed to take action, the FRSB should then ask the Charity Commission, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator or the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland to engage with the charity and potentially open a statutory inquiry, Hind said.
He said he thought it would be a good idea for the FRSB to ban particular charities from carrying out some forms of fundraising. If such news were to be reported on the front pages of the national newspapers, he said,no charity would dare continue with that form of fundraising. "My contention is that almost every charity would do almost everything in its power to avoid that happening," he said.
Hind said he wanted the FRSB to carry out inspections of all major fundraising charities every two to three years. He said he believed each of these charities should have a complaints manager in post and keep clear records of their complaints so that when the FRSB conducted its audit, it could evaluate whether charities were dealing with their complaints in line with their own policies.
He said he wanted the FRSB to produce a strategy document that it would use to consult publically on how the regulator should go about becoming more proactive and what the costs to the sector would be. The cost should be paid for by a levy on large charities, he said.
But Hind said he was realistic enough to realise that, if the review of self-regulation being carried out by Sir Stuart Etherington decided to scrap the FRSB, he could be out of a role within weeks. In such a circumstance, he said, he would be keen to be considered for a role within any new regulator that might be set up.
Asked if the other people involved in self-regulation should be excluded in any shake-up of the system, he said: "I don’t think I want to comment on that; I don’t know all the people, I’ve only just started."