Stephen Pidgeon: I welcome the findings of Sir Stuart Etherington

It's a huge opportunity for the sector, writes our columnist

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

Since Sir Stuart Etherington's review of fundraising regulation was published, there's been whingeing and a cornucopia of dire warnings. As a time-served direct marketing fundraiser, with donors and donor data my medium, I warmly welcome all of his recommendations. I see them as a huge opportunity for charities to change their attitudes to our precious donors and, long term, to raise much more money as a result.

I understand the Institute of Fundraising will be disappointed to lose its code, but it will sit better in an independent body, mirroring the Codes of Advertising Practice in their relationship with the much-admired Advertising Standards Authority. Our institute should be immensely proud of its gift to the new regulatory body. The Code of Fundraising Practice was created after countless hours of debate by volunteers, who were universally passionate about honourable fundraising.

I should know: for six years I chaired the standards committee that wrote it. The code will of course continue to evolve to reflect changing public views.

And I'm pleased the code will no longer be challenged by a rampant Fundraising Standards Board, which was threatening to become an arm of the tabloids. Am I the only one sighing with relief that the tenure of the new chair of the FRSB will be short?

Does the Fundraising Preference Service worry me? No! If people don't want to hear from charities, then it should be easy for them to opt out. Actually, I think it is already, but perhaps I'm wrong. And if we do our fundraising job well, the public's desire to sign up for it will be as limited as for the Mailing Preference Service. Remember: the massive numbers on the Telephone Preference Service, the telephone equivalent, were largely the result of dubious marketing messages from BT when first threatened by competition.

I'm excited that a merger of the Public Fundraising Association and the IoF could lead to the former's first-class compliance role in face-to-face becoming available to other areas of fundraising. There's a huge opportunity for the merged body to encourage good practice. The regulator will be a backstop: independent, well-funded, powerful and covering all charities.

But my greatest pleasure is Etherington's reminder to trustees that fundraising is their responsibility. Too many boards treat fundraising as a necessary evil - a grubby affair that somehow brings in the money. I believe the torrid headlines we've endured have resulted, partly, from board pressure to raise ever more without the slightest interest in how that might be achieved.

I am disgusted that not a single chair of trustees has stood to account as their fundraisers have been hung out to dry by a media obsessed with short-term headlines. Trustees are themselves volunteers. Briefed well by the executive, aren't they the ones who should respond to the understandable concerns of the giving public?

Stephen Pidgeon is a consultant and a teacher

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