The Institute of Fundraising has been told that the Privy Council will not be proceeding with its application for a royal charter until the recommendations made in Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of fundraising self-regulation have been delivered.
The IoF submitted an initial inquiry about chartered status, known as an informal memorandum, to the Privy Council in March to determine whether an official application might be successful.
But in mid-September it was informed by the Privy Council that the body had decided to put its consideration of the memorandum on hold until the changes to fundraising self-regulation stipulated in Etherington’s review had been fulfilled, according to Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF.
Lewis told Third Sector that the Privy Council said the charter application would be not be considered until the IoF was "operating in the new environment".
He said: "We will therefore revisit our approach to the Privy Council once the merger with the Public Fundraising Association has been completed and the new regulator is established. Then we will go back to the Privy Council and rejoin discussions."
He said that the bodies were aiming to merge in April 2016, at about the time the new fundraising regulator was expected to launch, and that the PFRA had been supportive of the IoF’s desire to pursue chartered status.
The decision comes after an IoF member, Jeremy Sparkes, a consultant specialising in major donor fundraising, sent several letters to the Privy Council expressing concern about the IoF’s application.
On 9 June, he sent a letter, seen by Third Sector, in which he took issue with Lewis’s assertion, made in a Third Sector article published in May, that chartered status would "have no impact on the Code of Fundraising Practice, which would be kept outside the charter".
Sparkes’s letter questioned whether it would be in the public interest to bring the IoF under the auspices of a royal charter "when the institute intends to specifically exclude the very means of judging members’ activity – the code of conduct – from any public scrutiny and accountability in this way".
In another letter, dated 29 September, sent after the Privy Council had already told the IoF that it was going to postpone its decision, Sparkes told the council that Etherington’s review had expressed a number of "deep concerns" about the IoF and its "inability to promote and protect the public interest" in fundraising.
Sparkes urged the Privy Council to consider whether the evidence emerging from the review had indicated that the IoF was not a "sufficiently mature organisation yet to warrant the granting of a charter", saying that the review had concluded the body was more akin "to an insular trade association that protected the industry’s interests, rather than a professional body which prioritised the best interests of the public".
He told Third Sector he had received a letter from the Privy Council that said the body’s advisers were aware of the fundraising review and, in view of this, the IoF’s proposed application for a royal charter would not be proceeding at this time.