We are not using a sledgehammer to collect the levy, says Fundraising Regulator chief

Speaking at a Westminster Social Policy Forum event today, Stephen Dunmore says the regulator is not bullying charities into paying for the upkeep of the organisation

Stephen Dunmore
Stephen Dunmore

Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, has denied that the watchdog is using a "sledgehammer approach" to collecting its levy and regulating the sector.

Speaking at a Westminster Social Policy Forum event in central London this morning, Dunmore said he wanted to bust some myths about how the regulator functioned and defend it from criticisms that it was bullying charities into contributing to its costs.

Charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fundraising have been asked to pay a voluntary annual levy of between £150 and £15,000 to fund the Fundraising Regulator. In September, the regulator published a list showing the 162 charities that had not paid the sum for its first year of existence.

Dunmore said it was a myth that the regulator had "been using a sledgehammer approach to collecting the levy".

He said: "This is absolutely untrue. We have spent endless hours with a wide variety of charities that queried their levy payments, and we have in light of those discussions let some of them off the levy.

"What we’ve been unable to do is negotiate with the 100 that have not responded to the requests for payment."

Dunmore echoed comments previously made by Michael Grade, chair of the regulator, that failure to respond to contact from the Fundraising Regulator was "unprofessional".

Dunmore also rejected the idea that publishing the list of payers and non-payers was "bullying and unfair to the non-payers, not least since the levy is voluntary".

He said publishing the list was part of the regulator’s commitment to fairness, transparency and accountability.

Complaints that the Fundraising Regulator was failing to be a friend to the sector, he said, "indicates a misunderstanding of the regulatory function. We’re neither friend nor enemy; we’re fair and balanced." He said the regulator had praised charities as well as criticised them.

Lawrence Simanowitz, charity partner at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite and former board member of the now defunct Fundraising Standards Board, said at the same event that the new regulator had made a number of mistakes early in its development and, although it had improved in recent months, the jury was still out.

"I’m not sure why we are where we are with the Fundraising Regulator," he said. "I don’t think it listened enough at the outset. It treated the sector as though it was guilty. It listened to the media reports and believed there was more bad behaviour than there was."

Dunmore revealed that the Fundraising Preference Service, which allows people to block unwanted communications from particular charities, had received more than 9,000 suppression requests from about 3,700 people since it was launched in July.

Simanowitz said the FPS had been "set up extremely well and extremely efficiently, but it hasn’t met with expectations" because the number of request had been "incredibly low for a service dedicated to that and which has had a lot of investment".

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