Planned changes to code would require more transparency from fundraisers

A consultation launched today by the Fundraising Regulator says fundraisers would have to read solicitation statements to potential donors before any transaction occurred

Face-to-face fundraising
Face-to-face fundraising

< This story has been amended; see final paragraph

Fundraisers will be required to explain their relationship with a charity before people commit to making a donation under proposed changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice.

The Fundraising Regulator said it hoped the change, which would require fundraisers to read the solicitation statement to the potential donor before cash or financial details are handed over, would provide greater clarity for fundraisers.

A consultation, on the first major changes to the code since responsibility for it was transferred from the Institute of Fundraising to the Fundraising Regulator in July last year, began today and is open to the wider public as well as people within the charity sector.

The proposals, which have been published by the Fundraising Regulator for consultation today, do not deal with the General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force next year, or the forthcoming Fundraising Preference Service.

Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the Fundraising Regulator, said the proposed changes reflected what the regulator had learned over the past few months, but would not be a "root-and-branch review".

He said: "We did consider a larger review, but we did think the balance of the argument would be in favour of offering continuity."

A complete overhaul of the code would have required more briefing and training and would have taken longer to implement, said Oppenheim.

"We took the view that we would do a development for the code to catch up on things that really needed to go into it sooner rather than later," he said.

He said he hoped the changes to the code would be finalised and timetabled by the time of the first anniversary of the regulator in July and, once they had been implemented, the regulator might look to make broader changes to the presentation of the code.

Oppenheim said the change to the rules on the solicitation statement had been brought about by concerns over whether or not people had that information before making decisions about whether they wanted to donate.

"We appreciate that in law there is no current clear understanding, so I think the proposal is there in part to give clarity to fundraisers and to make sure the public have all information they need prior to giving a donation," said Oppenheim.

The consultation document also proposes changes to the number of times a fundraiser can ask for a contribution in one interaction. They will still be limited to three asks, but the rule will apply only to financial contributions, not to donations of time or requests for support.

Stephen Service, policy manager at the regulator, said: "Our concern is about making sure the focus on undue pressure is in the right place. In our early conversations about it, it was recognised that there might be a distinction between asking for money and asking for non-financial support – for example, to volunteer or to fill in a petition or a survey."

The consultation also proposes adding a list of actions organisations can carry out in order to fulfil the requirement that they make a "reasonable effort" to monitor the behaviour of third-party fundraisers.

These include establishing a lead individual with responsibility for monitoring compliance, regularly reviewing agency compliance training and regularly conducting mystery shopping exercises.

But Service said charities would not necessarily be expected to comply with each measure on the list.

"These are examples that we might use in terms of adjudicating whether someone has made all reasonable efforts on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Respondents are also asked to give their view on proposals to improve whistleblowing protections and how the code currently deals with fundraising from vulnerable people.

A spokesman for the IoF said: "We welcome today’s wide-ranging and open consultation. It is essential that the expertise of fundraisers and the insight of donors informs any changes to the code, and we will be working with the regulator and our members to ensure this is the case."

The consultation will run until 28 April and the document is available on the Fundraising Regulator’s website.

< The original story attributed Stephen Service's quotes to Stephen Dunmore, the chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator

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