Thursday 10 December 2015

Three cheers for fundraising...

There has been much controversy about fundraising over the summer and then much debate on the report from my colleague, Sir Stuart.

We are now in the implementation stage of the recommendations of that report. We have to get this right.

As you would expect we will be robust in representing ACEVO member’s views during consultation on the powers of the new Fundraising Regulator (FR). So I'm seeking views from across our membership and will convene them in the New Year, in the run up to our final submission to the FR’s temporary Chairman Lord Grade.

There has been a lot of doom and gloom about all this. I'd like the Minister for the Office of Civil Society and the Charity Commission chairman to stiffen their sinews and resolve in supporting charities of all stripes big, medium or small.

Neither the sector nor its champions should meekly accept a fundraising regime which unreasonably restricts any charity’s ability to undertake the activity central to its survival. Whilst abuse cannot be tolerated, fundraising is the life blood for much of Britain's charity world.

So the new regulator will need to be nuanced as well as authoritative. Organisations should be allowed to gather funds from all sources as long as they pay heed to reputation and public confidence.

But reputation and trust isn’t just about fundraising practices. It is also about better leadership and governance.

It’s a shame that the recent CSR has meant there is little resource in the OCS to do more work on this, let alone promoting public service reform and third sector delivery. I remember the glory days when this part of the Cabinet Office was set up. Myself and the ACEVO board had had a great meeting in No 10 with the then PM - one Tony Blair.  He was keen to promote the role of the third sector in delivering public services. That was core to the remit of the new Office of the Third Sector.  How that has all changed.

But overall, there has been too much doom and gloom about ‘the last chance saloon’ and the mortal threat to self-regulation, and the role charities play. It is time for us all to get off our knees and stand up for the interests of all charities – small, medium or large. Asking people to give to charity is a good thing. Indeed, without it, many of our country's most loved institutions would be mortally damaged and beneficiaries harmed.

Yes, I agree there is ‘no rowing back’ on the Etherington review. Let us not forget, however, that less asking can mean less giving, and that the sector’s ability to fundraise should not be emasculated. So let's all be more forthright in championing our sector and its role in fundraising.

ACEVO is contacting all its members this week to seek their views on the remit of the new regulator and in particular the implementation of the Fundraising Preference Service so that it can feed in views to its Chair, George Kidd.

But we are also going to ask about how to take this issue forward.  Should we be doing more to promote the importance of fundraising? An awareness campaign on why this is so important? Work on the OCS and Charity Commission to stop being so negative?

I’ve always thought being robust on why we are good for the country is the best defence. Of course let's stamp out abuse. But our mission is precious and not just worth defending, but shouting about. 

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