Monday 29 June 2015

Constructing a Coordinated Response on Fundraising

The recent attention given to fundraising has acted as a wake up call for us to sort out the best possible standards for what we do in asking for money from the public.

I have been spending time consulting my CEO members about how we tackle the issues raised in parts of the media about fundraising practices. ACEVO convened a particularly good breakfast  round table at the Charities Aid Foundation with senior CEOs which helped clarify the actions we need to take. Of course not all my members do public fundraising, many do small amounts, and some of our bigger best loved charities like the Red Cross, BHF, Macmillan and  cancer research charities for example do a lot.

A general consensus has emerged that, while this is not a crisis, we must treat this seriously. As David McCullough of RVS commented , the age of deference is over and people/media are more happy to have a go at institutions of all sorts. It is also clear that there has been no impact in terms of giving and not many complaints so far. However there was a strong feeling that we need to take this seriously,  or we may risk damage to the sector's reputation. Ultimately this may result in the loss of self regulation; John Low pointed out there is provision in the Charity Act for Ministers to act on this and it does not require further legislation.
In any case it is right we take time to review what we do so as to ensure the highest possible standards and rigorous ethical standards. David Bull of Unicef pointed out that we must put our beneficiaries first.

There are varying views  on what exactly should be done on fundraising. Some make the point that less asking means less giving and for some major charities door to door/ chugging/ mailing and the like is a significant source of income. Lynda Thomas CEO of Macmillan cancer care said they do a great deal of door to door fundraising but their teams are trained to handle requests for advice from people on the door step who have concerns about  cancer. Indeed it's a great opportunity to tell people about the brilliant advice and support they offer and it generates significant requests for this. They provide help and support and sign post to important advisory services. I know other charities like the British Heart Foundation say the same.

On the other side, there are some charities that work with the elderly have concerns over activities like door to door fundraising. Age UK for example, are clear they will not use many forms of fundraising because of concerns about vulnerable older people.
One thing is sure;  CEOs need to be on top of their fundraising and keeping an eye on how they operate, and what they do. This is one of the pieces of advice ACEVO has been giving to CEO members generally. Good time to check out what methods are being used and how it operates, especially if using other agencies.

I've heard a strong view that we must speak with one voice on this issue and so the umbrella bodies must be united on this.

As a consequence ACEVO, NCVO,the Institute of fundraising , and finance directors  are getting together to develop a guidance note of advice for trustees and CEOs in fundraising charities. I'm sure the sector will welcome such a display of unity on this issue and help us reassure the civil society Minister and others we are serious about tightening up oversight.

It was good last week to see Rob Wilson talking about the value of self regulation and he was right to be saying we need to act. We have and we are determined to get this right.

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