Trustees must take responsibility for fundraising practices, says revised Charity Commission guidance

They must also be prepared to supervise fundraisers, says the regulator as it consults on draft revised guidance from today until February

Direct mail: among the fundraising practices for which trustees must accept the buck
Direct mail: among the fundraising practices for which trustees must accept the buck

In revised draft guidance published today, the Charity Commission has warned that trustees must take responsibility for fundraising practices and be prepared to supervise fundraisers.

The commission has asked for the sector’s views on the 27-page draft guidance document as part of a consultation that opens today.

The draft guidance highlights six key responsibilities for trustees: effective planning, supervising fundraisers, protecting the charity’s reputation and other assets, complying with fundraising law, following recognised standards and being open and accountable.

The new guidance says: "You and your co-trustees are legally responsible for making sure that your charity’s fundraising is carried out in compliance with your legal trustee duties."

It says this responsibility applies whoever is carrying out the fundraising and in addition to specific fundraising law and recognised relevant fundraising standards.

The guidance has been revised in the wake of intense criticism of charity fundraising tactics in the national media over the summer months.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the commission, said it understood that raising money was vital to the success of charities, but doing so while providing a positive experience for donors and the public could be challenging.

"We have seen this summer what happens when donor and public confidence in charity fundraising is damaged, and as a result the reputation of charities as a whole. No one wants to see such critical headlines again.

"The revised guidance reflects the need to put public trust back at the heart of charity fundraising.

"It makes absolutely clear that trustees are in the driving seat of their charity’s approach to fundraising. This doesn’t mean we expect them to become expert fundraisers themselves – but the buck really does stop with them."

Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of the self-regulation of fundraising, which reported in September, called for a new fundraising regulator, which is expected to begin overseeing fundraising next year.

The draft guidance does not include a definition of the fundraising regulator or its role, or examples of when trustees would be non-compliant with their legal duties if they did not follow best practice, but says these will be included in the final version.

A commission statement accompanying the guidance said it was designed to be more succinct and should be accessible for all trustees.

The statement said: "The commission welcomes responses from trustees of charities of all sizes, as well as the public and other interested parties, to ensure the guidance is clear to everyone."

The consultation closes on 11 February.

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