Public Fundraising Regulatory Association 'could become subsidiary of IoF', says report

A government-funded review says the Institute of Fundraising, the PFRA and the Fundraising Standards Board would work better by improving communications and pooling resources

The report that emerged from the review
The report that emerged from the review

The government-financed review of fundraising regulation has suggested that the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association could become a "department or subsidiary of the Institute of Fundraising".

A report based on the review, produced by the professional services firm PwC, was commissioned by the IoF, the PFRA and the Fundraising Standards Board, following on from recommendations made in Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006.

The review looked at the roles of the three bodies with a view to recommending better ways for them to handle future challenges.

The report, a summary of which is published today, says that the three fundraising bodies should consider sharing back-office functions and significantly improve their communication with one another.

The organisations are not releasing the full report because they say it contains commercially sensitive information. "The PFRA was initially established to respond to the ‘hot topic’ of face-to-face fundraising," the summary says. "We see the PFRA evolving over the next three years to become more aligned with the IoF, which would help it respond to future ‘hot topics’ in the sector and changes in regulation.

"The PFRA would, in time, need to rebrand and transition its governance structure. In the future, it may be considered to be more efficient to run the PFRA as a department or subsidiary of IoF."

It also says that the PFRA could carry out its current activity without being called a regulator and should drop the word regulatory from its name.

The IoF has an observer on the PFRA board, but, as result of discussions since the Hodgson review, this will be upgraded to a full director position, which will be ring-fenced for an IoF representative. It is likely that this position will be filled initially by Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF.

Peter Hills-Jones, head of policy and communications at the PFRA, said: "All three of us – and also PwC – concluded that now wasn’t the time to go through a big structural change. It could have quite large cost implications because we currently have three separate offices.

"We hope that the closer alignment with the IoF in the meantime will meet most of the needs. It’s a case of trying this new model to see how it works and, as we move through to 2017, we’ll be in a position to either point to successes or not – and it will be for parliament to make the final call."

The summary says that improvements in communication between the three organisations are needed to prevent "confusion over roles, avoid duplication and present a united front to the public".

It says an online portal should be set up and run by the FRSB to provide one public face for the organisations and give greater clarity about their roles and responsibilities.

In response to this, the bodies have held meetings to develop a joint communication strategy, which includes enhancing the existing FRSB website over the coming months to direct visitors who want information about self-regulation to the IoF and PFRA websites.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said it was unlikely that a completely new website would be created because of the associated costs.

The report says that the three organisations should consider sharing back-office functions in order to pool their resources and make savings.

McLean said: "Shared office space makes a lot of sense, but there has to be some real need for that, some demonstrable evidence that says we should do it. However, if there are areas where we can improve the way we do back-office functions such as admin and finance, then we owe it to ourselves and the public to examine it."

He said that several of the recommendations were already being implemented in full, while others would require some analysis.

The summary says there should be better links between the organisations in order to expel repeat offenders from the self-regulation system or penalise them in some other way, and that an independent review process should be put in place to allow complainants and charities the right of appeal against FRSB adjudications.

Another recommendation is that the FRSB puts sanctions in place – such as asking the Charity Commission to revoke an organisation’s charitable status – to deal with charities that do not accept adjudication rulings or refuse to comply with the IoF Code of Fundraising Practice.

"The key message from this review is to simplify and act as one," said Ian Oakley-Smith, head of charities at PwC. "This will provide both charities and the public with the additional confidence and clarity they will need to maintain effective self-regulation in the sector."

The review was funded by a £20,000 grant from the Office for Civil Society, with a further £40,000 for implementing its recommendations.

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