Stephen Pidgeon: Using the code to build public trust

The 28 original Institute of Fundraising codes of practice have been reduced to one, says our columnist - and it's a masterpiece

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

I've just accepted an invitation to an event that makes me very proud. In a week or two, Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, will launch the Institute of Fundraising's new Code of Fundraising Practice. The 28 original codes have been reduced to one and, as chairman of the standards committee that oversees it, I'm immensely pleased.

The 28 were long, repetitive and even contradictory. Wading through them required the fortitude of a saint. You can imagine the huge task, boldly carried out by institute staff and supported by my committee, in reducing them to one.

There will now be one code, every word of which is a professional requirement if you are a member of the institute. Under Lord Hodgson's proposal for greater clarity in the regulation of fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board will base all future judgements on the one code and it will be incumbent on all fundraisers to know their way around it. The institute will also put it online, complete with links to help you find out more. I have to say, it's a masterpiece - although of course it will continue to evolve.

Why is this important? Joe Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, issued a challenge a few weeks ago in a strategy paper, saying that we are all responsible for building the public's trust and confidence in charities. He was calling on the Charity Commission to take the lead, set up a steering group and build its own brand. But he offered other ideas, including delivering on the institute's codes.

Other people will not do this for us. We have to build trust ourselves - otherwise we will continue to hear wet statements at party conferences bemoaning the 'professionalisation' of the fundraising sector - and, more worryingly, donations will increasingly become the domain of the over-60s (half now come from this age group, up from 34 per cent in the early 1980s).

Of course, the 1980s was also the decade that saw the start of serious direct mail fundraising. The method is now popular with the over-60s but, like online fundraising today, it wasn't immediately taken up by everybody as a potential means of support.

I now teach fundraising, and I am alarmed by the number of people on IoF Academy courses who have never considered their role in ensuring that public trust and confidence is maintained, for the good of all charities. Most are excellent at their jobs, but they struggle to see their wider roles.

It's a bit like those fundraisers who attend endless institute networking meetings but don't join it. They should be contributing to the general good as members of their professional body, not sloping off trying to save a membership fee.

Working in our sector is a privilege, but it has obligations. And contributing fully to our sector - especially the public's view of it - is essential.

Stephen Pidgeon is a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising, a consultant and teacher

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