Getting your trustees on board with fundraising
Events of the past year and our recent research into public trust and confidence in charities confirmed what we all know: that done well, fundraising has the potential to build strong, meaningful, positive relationships with donors and the public.
But when it’s mishandled or poorly managed, even by a few, it can quickly and seriously dent public trust. Whilst our research results show that perceptions about fundraising have contributed to a decline in confidence, we know how hard many in the sector are working to review their fundraising practices and help reverse that trend. As the regulator, we also aim to increase public trust so we have been looking hard at how we can support the sector and help rebuild the public’s faith.
If we delve beneath the surface, getting fundraising right starts with good governance. We believe that trustee oversight is crucial to ensuring that a charity’s fundraising activity doesn’t jeopardise its reputation or work. An important step for us in ensuring that trustees know what to look out for was publishing the updated version of our fundraising guidance, CC20, which sets out 6 key principles to follow.
Our revised guidance focuses on our regulatory remit and therefore concentrates on the role and responsibility of charity trustees in setting their charity’s fundraising strategy and complying with their legal obligations. However, it is equally relevant to all those involved in charity fundraising and a positive relationship, with appropriate challenge, between trustees and the executive is vital. As CC20 states, there is often room to improve the relationship between trustees and fundraisers: “Each has to understand the other’s role. This should provide the framework for trustees to close that gap and provide the appropriate oversight and challenge. Trustees should be bold about that challenge and fundraisers should welcome it. In the long term, it’s in their best interests”.
The response to our consultation on the guidance illustrated that some charities were concerned that trustees are expected have a more hands-on role than is feasible in some charities. In reality, we don’t expect trustees to get overly-involved in the daily management of fundraising and we recognise that charities rely on effective delegation. However, as the Institute of Fundraising’s new joint practical handbook ‘Trustees and Fundraising’ confirms, good governance in the fundraising context is about having robust systems in place to manage the people and organisations that the charity works with. Trustees are still accountable if something goes wrong, so making sure they understand your fundraising appeal and spend time on it is crucial.
As we have a shared commitment to raising standards, we have worked closely with charities and other bodies responsible for strengthening fundraising practices and reforming the self-regulatory regime such as the Institute of Fundraising and the new Fundraising Regulator. During our consultation on CC20, we received a lot of comments wanting more concrete examples and applied guidance on how to discharge these duties in practice. The new handbook from the Institute Of Fundraising will help immensely with this by offering a ‘principles into practice approach’ and providing greater detail on topics such as writing a fundraising strategy and choosing fundraising methods.
The essence of our guidance was familiar to the sector - charities must be transparent, accountable and respectful when raising funds – and this has been echoed in the Institute of Fundraising’s new upcoming guidance, to be launched on 10th October at the IoF Trustees and Fundraising conference.
By making sure that the board has access to the right information and advice in the best format and that they are encouraged and prepared to ask those probing, challenging, sometimes even awkward questions, the board and fundraising team can work effectively together to improve fundraising. We don’t want just to address bad practices; instead we want to raise standards across the board and make good practices better. There is a huge potential for properly managed fundraising, involving both trustees and fundraisers, to make a positive difference to how charities are perceived by the public. This handbook is another helpful step towards that goal.
Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications, Charity Commission
Download the practical handbook, ‘Trustees and Fundraising: Practical Handbook to Fundraising Governance’, developed in partnership with NCVO, CFG and ACEVO and access a range of resources