Talking Points: Adrian Sargeant suggests a new body should oversee the fundraising code

Readers give their views

Adrian Sargeant
Adrian Sargeant

A new body should be created to take over the Institute of Fundraising's role of setting the Code of Fundraising Practice, said the fundraising academic Adrian Sargeant in a blog on the website of Rogare, the think tank at Plymouth University's Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy.

Sargeant, director of the centre, said the IoF's decision to appoint an independent chair and recruit three lay members to its standards committee meant the existing code would be decided by people with little knowledge of fundraising. He said a new body should be created to take over this responsibility – it should be composed entirely of experts from the fundraising sector and have its standards overseen by the Fundraising Standards Board, following the model set by the Committee of Advertising Practice, which comprises advertising experts and is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Commenting on, Karl Wilding said: "There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. It strikes me that there are opportunities and costs to them all, just as there are opportunities and costs to where a standards committee might be sited. The cost of the current approach is that the public interest is not sufficiently represented. Changes made by the IoF seem like a sensible response; shifting the standards function to another organisation or a new body might be too much upheaval at a time of significant change already."

Stephen Pidgeon said: "I agree with Adrian. I chaired the standards committee for six years and there were many discussions I couldn't join because I had no experience of that piece of fundraising. The idea that lay members will be "fully trained in fundraising" is daft. The code is a technical document to ensure fundraisers get it right. Ill-thought-out comments from the likes of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and others are knee-jerk responses to the media."

Wilding, who is director of public policy at the NCVO, said: "Stephen: a classic line of defence in such situations is to accuse any proponent of change as reacting to moral panic by implementing knee-jerk changes.

A further line of defence is to describe them as ill-thought-out. The final one is to suggest that anyone who is not an active professional in the field is incapable of making a rational judgement on the standards held by that profession. If the NCVO's proposals are knee-jerk, what does that make the very similar proposals made by Lord Hodgson a number of years ago?"

Ian MacQuillin said: "What we have seen since the death of Olive Cooke are ill-thought-out, knee-jerk responses to a media-fuelled moral panic. Everything has proceeded on the basis of a causal link between the volume of fundraising and her apparent suicide. Changes are being demanded to prevent this happening again (though it hasn't happened once) and proposals are being rushed through without time for careful consideration or consultation. In anyone's language, that's 'knee-jerk' and 'ill-thought-out'."

Adrian Sargeant said: "I take your point Karl that there are many models out there, but the ASA already controls direct mail, advertising, internet channels, mobile etc. So if that model works well in most of the channels we routinely use for fundraising, why not adopt the same approach? The ASA model is properly funded, allows for ongoing monitoring, provides for public representation, covers all relevant forms of marketing communication, garners the public trust and has the final backdrop of the Secretary of State. How is what we have better than that?"

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