OPINION: The morals of the fundraising rogues' gallery

Geraldine Peacock, a charity commissioner and a civil service commissioner

"Jealousy with a halo" is how HG Wells describes moral indignation, and there's been more than a touch of this in the sector following two small but pointed press reports that appeared a couple of weeks ago about Jeffrey Archer and one of the great train robbers.

What these two "rogues" have in common is that they used their notoriety to raise funds for charity - one by acting as an auctioneer, the other by telling his tale to raise money for the local church.

Like many of the debates about fundraising this raises a number of issues, not least morality, trust, honesty and standards. In Alan Bennett's 40 Years On, the headmaster, when asked whether he feels his standards are out of date, replies: "Of course they're out of date. Standards are always out of date. That is what makes them standards." Whether we like it or not, the voluntary sector occupies the moral high ground in the public's mind.

In the past, charities dealt with problems quietly, discreetly and, sometimes, inappropriately in the hope that they could protect their reputations.

But, as we increasingly recognise that the contract between charities and their supporters is based on trust, transparency and accountability, we need to practice what we preach. It is about values and risk assessment.

We should not just talk about our values but live them, set standards and maintain them - and not uphold our reputation through applied wisdom.

As we, quite rightly, become more entrepreneurial the potential for sticky situations is increased. Whether it is a dilemma about "ethical" investment or commando-style fundraising techniques, we must apply judgement based on our belief systems.

It's not that I'm coming over all holier than thou, but the issue of whether celebrity achieved through notoriety is an appropriate fundraising tool for charities is a tricky one. If we believe in forgiveness, redemption and rehabilitation, then one might argue that these public figures are putting something back. Alternatively, cynics might say they could demonstrate reparation in a less public way.

When individual charities judge what is right for them we must always bear in mind that the public often does not differentiate between causes.

What affects one organisation affects us all. How far should we push the moral boundaries?

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