With fundraising in the public eye, itís important to keep our standards high, says Daniel Fluskey
The issue of standards in fundraising is a particularly hot topic right now. Certainly since the summer it seems that the public eye, or at least the eye of certain parts of the media, has been firmly on the charity sector. Whether itís The Telegraph reporting on charity CEO salaries, or stories on the role of charities and their right to campaign being potentially curtailed by the Lobbying Bill, it seems that the very nature of the role and place of charities in our society is under scrutiny.
Fundraising at the forefront
Fundraising is the most publicly visible part of a charityís work. Itís unlikely that you would go a day without seeing some form of fundraising as you go about your daily life, whether itís an advert in a newspaper, a poster on a train, a television commercial or someone on the street fundraising for good causes. With a lot of public interest in what charities are doing and how theyíre working, it is absolutely crucial that each of these interactions with donors and the public happen in the right way. Even though the numbers of complaints around fundraising continue to be small, we canít afford to be complacent.
The government, through the Hodgson report and the recent Public Administration Select Committee report on charity law, has shown that fundraising is certainly on their radar. And while the government has said it supports self-regulation of fundraising, we have been Ďput on noticeí that if things are not significantly better in five yearsí time, the government should consider statutory regulation.
Thatís why the IoFís Code of Fundraising Practice is the single most important tool for any fundraiser to have by their side as they go about their work. Do you know what the licensing requirements are if your organisation wants to carry out face-to-face fundraising? In what circumstances you might be legally obliged to return a donation? Or what the age is under which you should avoid soliciting regular donations from people? (Thatís 18, by the way). Well, if you donít, the code is the place to look Ė and in November it celebrated its first birthday.
A year on from the IoF code
Looking back a year after the code was revamped and consolidated, bringing 28 individual codes into one document, we can see itís been a real success Ė in the first four months after it was launched, web views to the code increased by a massive 283 per cent, and we know that charities are using it as part of their staff training and embedding it in their work.
So why is it so important? Well, first (and hopefully no-one could argue with this one), by following the code, fundraisers can make sure that what they are doing is legal. Regulations, licences, data protection, lotteries, etc Ė they can be a minefield. The code helps fundraisers navigate through the complexity.
Secondly, it sets out what we, as a sector, think the standards of fundraising should be; going beyond the legal requirements, it represents what we believe is the right way to ask people for money, while ensuring that donors and members of the public are not caused any unnecessary annoyance.
Finally, following the best standards while fundraising will only go towards maintaining and building on the high levels of trust and confidence that the public has in the voluntary and community sector. More than anyone, fundraisers know how crucial that relationship of trust is in sustaining positive relationships with donors and growing voluntary income, and are mindful of fundraising in a way that best reinforces and supports this relationship.
So if we want to keep it, we need to earn it. Part of that solution is the self-regulatory bodies (the IoF, PFRA and FRSB) working better to provide the best regulatory framework for fundraisers. The other part is for all fundraisers to go about their essential work, getting donations for good causes in the best possible way, ensuring that everything they do is legal, open, honest and respectful. The code is the best resource there is to help all fundraisers work in this way Ė so happy birthday to it, and hereís to many more.
Daniel Fluskey is head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 236, December 2013