Latest developments

Summer 2015 saw much criticism towards the fundraising conduct of some UK charities. This was sparked following the death of Olive Cooke who was repeatedly contacted by charities through mail and phone calls asking for donations. According to the BBC, she received ‘more than 200 letters in one month’.

In January 2016, The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) issued a final report on their investigation into charity fundraising practices. It affirmed the recommended changes to the Code of Fundraising Practices and called for a “behavioural shift for the way in which charities view their supporters.”

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee issued their report in January 2016 on the issue of charity fundraising and its summary was “It would be a sad and inexcusable failure of charities to govern their own behaviour, should statutory regulation became necessary.”

As a response to the public scrutiny that followed and the review of fundraising led by Sir Stuart Etherington, the FRSB is to be replaced by a new fundraising regulator which is expected to start operating in April 2016. This new fundraising regulator will continue to be based on a self-regulation regime and is seen as the last chance for charities to utilise and benefit from self-regulation and not be heavily regulated by a government body.

The Charity Commission was, during 2015 and the various reviews brought into the spotlight. The Commission does not have express powers to regulate fundraising by charities. It has however responded by issuing a draft new guidance to replace its existing Charities and Fundraising (CC20) guidance. The intention is to help charity trustees better understand their legal duties as well as to set out what is to be expected as a matter of good practice.

The consultation on the draft guidance ran from December 2015 and closed in February 2016. The feedback is currently being reviewed by the Commission and the final guidance is expected to be published during spring 2016.

The Role of Charity Trustees

Charity trustees are publicly accountable and legally responsible for the actions of their charity. There are laws and recognised standards that should be followed in relation to fundraising. The Code of Fundraising Practice sets out the legal requirements and recognised standards as compiled by the Institute of Fundraising.

The recent reviews directed part of the blame for the poor fundraising practices towards charity trustees for not engaging enough with their charity fundraising policies and practices thus not ensuring that their charity’s values are appropriately reflected. Trustees will be expected to use the Charity Commission’s new guidance as a mandate to help them put good governance in place so that they can help their charity and the charity sector as a whole, regain public trust and confidence – after all, charities do rely heavily on public funding and donations.

You can view a copy of the consultation document Charitiy fundraising: a guide to trustees duties here