Fundraising self-regulatory bodies confirm progress with minister

8 July 2015

The chief executives of the three fundraising bodies responsible for fundraising self-regulation yesterday met with the Minister for Civil Society to update him on the various actions that have been taken over the last few weeks around fundraising standards and planned activity for the future.

Action taken by the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) following the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) interim report and recommendations to strengthen the code, include ruling that charities must not knock on doors where there are cold-calling stickers.

Other decisions approved by the IoF Board include making it clear that, no matter where an agency working for a charity is based, it is the charity's responsibility to make sure that such an agency must comply with the terms of the Telephone Preference Service. A new clause has been added to the Code outlining the obligation that a charity must not accept a donation, or must return a donation that has already been received, from someone who does not have legal capacity to make such a gift.

The IoF has also affirmed that both the legal and best practice requirements set out in the Code are compulsory, by amending the previous language of "ought" to a must in the Code. This change has been implemented with immediate effect.

Further developments will be announced in the coming weeks as the work of the newly established task groups progresses. The IoF has set up four task groups to review standards in the following areas, in light of relevant concerns raised and highlighted in the FRSB’s interim report. They are:
-   frequency and volume of fundraising approaches;
-   data buying, selling and sharing practices;
-   telephone fundraising standards, including TPS compliance and certification requirements; and
-   how individuals can more simply and easily manage their preferences.

The public voice and that of the donor is also being brought to standard setting, with the IoF now in the process of recruiting an independent chair and three independent lay members to join the Standards Committee, which is responsible for setting the rules that sit along side the laws that make up the Code of Fundraising Practice.

Alongside work already underway to review telephone standards, the IoF and FRSB will co-host a summit within the next few weeks to review current practices and compliance with the Code of Fundraising Practice, TPS requirements and ICO guidance. The event will involve representatives from the Information Commissioner's Office, Direct Marketing Association and the Telephone Preference Service, as well as relevant suppliers and charities, to ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of what these rules mean in practice.

Work will also be underway looking at the feasibility of a national suppression database, as requested by the Minister.

The FRSB is also progressing its investigation into the specific fundraising approaches made to Olive Cooke in the weeks preceding her death, in addition to similar concerns raised by other complainants in recent weeks. Two further FRSB investigations are underway into the telephone fundraising practices and allegations made in The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said: "Charitable fundraising raises billions towards good causes in the UK and abroad last year, contributing hugely to the society we live in whether rescuing people from the Nepal Earthquake, supporting people with cancer or protecting vulnerable children. Without funds the charitable activity of the scale undertaken by the major charities would not be possible.

"We are now absolutely focused on reviewing all the recommendations made by the FRSB in its interim report, with a view to making appropriate decisions about the Code in September, and have established task groups to ensure this happens as a priority. Each of these groups has a specific remit to review how the Code could be improved to protect people in vulnerable circumstances.

"We explained to the Minister that we are reviewing whether fundraisers should be limited to a maximum amount of contacts each year with the donor; the standardisation of opt-outs; data buying; selling and sharing; the rules in relation to complying with TPS and MPS; whether "reasonable persuasion" is the appropriate level of persuasion a charity should be able to use in asking for support for its cause or such a statement should be removed from the code altogether and what tighter rules might be most effective to better manage telephone fundraising.

"However, while some decisions have been necessary to make swiftly, and have been clear ones to make, we also want to ensure that other changes that will impact on charities and their beneficiaries need to be made with deliberation. Speed alone never makes for good long term decisions.

"We have also secured additional resources from several of our organisational members to look into the feasibility of a Code compliance scheme for Direct Mail and Telephone Fundraising and are working with NCVO, ACEVO and CFG to develop new guidance for Trustees and Chief Executives on how to effectively manage fundraising within their organisations. This will sit alongside the new Trustee Fundraising Guidance being developed by the Charity Commission."

The FRSB Board has also met to review the resources it requires to extend its capability to regulate charity fundraising, while at the same time reviewing funding initiatives and the introduction of further sanctions for any organisations found to have breached fundraising standards.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said: "We will be enhancing the complaints return process by adding a requirement that charities provide even greater detail about those concerns, increasing our ability to enforce the Code.

"We are also introducing a supplier complaints return in 2016 so that we can better track the performance of those organisations and tackle any poor practice. We have also looked at greater sanctions for non-compliance and have agreed that charities not completing their mandatory annual complaints return for two years in a row will be referred to the Board, with the potential of being expelled from the scheme."

The PFRA has now signed Site Management Agreements with 102 local authorities, and is currently negotiating a further 4 (including with Birmingham City Council) with the latest PFRA council survey showing that over 90% were satisfied with the impact of their SMA in reducing fundraiser numbers and complaints.

Peter Hills-Jones, chief executive of the PFRA, said: "We are currently redrafting our Rulebooks for both street and door-to-door fundraising and intend to increase penalties for recurrent breaches, money which is being reinvested in a new e-learning system for our members, which we plan to launch in the autumn. This system includes a number of modules, one of which is specific to vulnerable people, and is being designed in collaboration with the IoF, FRSB, Age UK and the Alzheimer's Society.