Viewpoint: The sector's success depends on getting this right

It is essential that everybody in the sector gets involved in the consultation on the new set of standards for fundraising.

For me, fundraising is much more than street collections, summer fetes and grant applications. Without it, how would we carry out our charitable activities? We must never fall into the trap of thinking of fundraising as an isolated and independent activity.

This is the third time in the past 10 years that I have been directly involved in developing a set of standards for fundraisers.

The first time around, the standards remained on shelves gathering dust. They were never seen as relevant to anyone but a few die-hard professionals. Vested interests meant that they never became mainstream. The second time around, people who should have been driving the standards forward, such as umbrella body the NCVO and the Institute of Fundraising, seemed to be taking a back seat. This time, things must be different.

Unless fundraisers take up the new National Occupational Standards and implement them, there will be no improvement in fundraising.

Charity fundraising can easily be abused. Charitable collections are one of the simplest ways for unscrupulous people to relieve others of their money without them realising they have been fleeced. It's so simple - the general public are generous, fabulous at supporting good causes and generally do not question whether collections really are for charity.

There is a huge danger that if we don't use the new standards to ensure fundraising is carried out well, then the public will lose their all-important confidence in the sector. I see the new standards as a means of keeping that confidence alive. If the standards fail to set the benchmark, the sector risks the threat of being heavily regulated by the Government.

The standards will be of most relevance and use to small organisations - the local community groups that carry out fundraising activities. They will not be so important for bigger organisations, which have the resources and experience to get things right.

This is about improving fundraising locally. Local fundraisers need to have standards in a form that is relevant and usable for them. This set of standards must offer practical guidance.

The steering group developing this third set of standards can never fully represent the wide range of views on fundraising. We never saw ourselves as the ultimate experts. That is why I feel it is vital everyone working in the sector has their say.

This is especially important if your job is not in fundraising but that is what you seem to spend most of your time doing. Take part in the consultation, get to know the standards and understand that they are about much more than just a few guidelines for professional fundraisers.

5 MORE THINGS ...

- The Workforce Hub and the Institute of Fundraising have called for voluntary and community organisations to provide feedback on the draft National Occupational Standards. The closing date for feedback is 31 October.

- The hub received funding from the Sector Skills Development Agency to carry out the review and redevelopment of the standards.

- The standards set out the skills needed for particular fundraising tasks. They include new standards for grant fundraising, corporate fundraising, major gifts and direct marketing.

- Members of the steering group include Tim Hunter, the chair, and Linda Laurance, the deputy chair. Hunter is deputy director of fundraising at the NSPCC. Laurance is a trustee of the Directory of Social Change and a governance consultant.

- The European Fundraising Association will unveil the first Europe-wide fundraising qualification at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands next week. The qualification is equivalent to the Institute of Fundraising's Certificate in Fundraising Management.

- Margaret Underwood is director of Third Sector Development & Training and a member of the steering group developing new National Occupational Standards for fundraising.

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