Stephen Dunmore: 'I really enjoy a role that is politically significant'

The interim chair of the new Fundraising Regulator wants partnership and independence

Stephen Dunmore
Stephen Dunmore

Before his appointment last December, charity professionals could be forgiven for thinking that Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the new Fundraising Regulator, had left the sector some time ago. He was previously well known among charities, having spent a decade as chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund and its predecessor the New Opportunities Fund, until 2008.

He then joined the Office of the Third Sector - the predecessor to the Office for Civil Society - as an adviser. Since then he has held a string of interim chief executive roles in charities including Lumos, the children's charity founded by JK Rowling, and the Diana Fund, but has otherwise maintained a low profile.

Why has he chosen to come back into the public eye? "I thought this job would be a particular challenge, and I really enjoy a role that is politically significant," says Dunmore, who is now 67. "I felt I wanted to have one last go at doing a job that was rather more high-profile than some of the ones I've done since the Big Lottery Fund."

He started his 12-month contract at the Fundraising Regulator on a salary of £80,000 in early January, and says he is keen for it to form a partnership with the sector in order to bring about a cultural change in the fundraising practices of charities.

At the same time, he says, he wants the regulator to be independent, and although he has had positive discussions with the Institute of Fundraising, he does not want the regulator to be "unduly influenced" by the IoF. He believes this was one of the reasons the Fundraising Standards Board failed.

Another weakness of the FRSB that the new regulator intends to avoid is that not all charities were members. Dunmore believes a recent amendment to the charities bill, allowing the government to set up statutory regulation if self-regulation failed, will be a strong incentive for all charities to sign up, even though, technically, this will be voluntary. Those that do sign up will be committing themselves to follow the Code of Fundraising Practice; and charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fundraising will be asked to pay a levy, which will also be voluntary.

Dunmore says that the code, up to now controlled by the IoF standards committee, and the Public Fundraising Association's rule book for face-to-face fundraisers will both be transferred to the regulator by about the end of June, when it also aims to take over the FRSB's adjudication responsibilities and have the new levy system in place.

Asked if it would be appropriate for Suzanne McCarthy, appointed as the first independent chair of the IoF standards committee last September, to become involved in the new regulator's fundraising practice committee, Dunmore says he is willing to consider this "very seriously". He says it would be "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" not to make use of resources built up by the IoF and the FRSB in recent years, and plans to offer roles at the regulator to various FRSB staff.

He says that although the working group that is considering how to implement a Fundraising Preference Service is due to report on its findings in April, this service might not be in operation until April 2017.

Dunmore accepts that there will be criticism of the FPS - the main bugbear of the new system for many fundraisers - but does not appear to be fazed by this. "Regulators are never seen in a universally positive light, and our first responsibility is to donors and the general public," he says. "You need to have a broad enough back to respond to the negative."

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