With his recommendations for the Charities Act, has Lord Hodgson handed us a poisoned chalice or the Holy Grail?
Cath Lee, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition
A bit of both. ‘Good’ proposals include joint registration with HMRC and the Charity Commission, abolishing the Summary Information Return, and all those that will result in clearer, simpler guidance and less duplication of information.
The more ‘poisoned’ proposals include raising the threshold for compulsory registration to £25k, not introducing voluntary registration for what will in practice be years, and giving larger charities the power to pay their trustees. Such measures will make it even more difficult for small charities to attract funding and support.
Many of Lord Hodgson’s good proposals simply will not make it off the starting blocks due to lack of resource, and some with great potential, such as self-regulation of fundraising, may be introduced statutorily without adequate time for progress to be made on a voluntary basis.
Overall, though, we have been handed a very thorough review with much to be worked on. As a sector we should rise to the challenges it presents.
Peter Storey, director of marketing and communications at Kidney Research UK
As a supportive member of both the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) and the Institute of Fundraising, Kidney Research UK welcomes the fact that Lord Hodgson’s recommendations strengthen the self-regulation scheme for fundraising.
However, we are concerned over the recommendation that the national exemption scheme should be abolished. Like many charities, we have a long tradition of house-to-house cash collecting, undertaken by loyal volunteers across the UK – many of whom have successfully collected year after year. Any move to license this activity on a council-by-council basis would require our charity to negotiate up to 300 separate licences with different authorities.
For a charity with a turnover between £7m and £8m, this would increase bureaucracy and our operational costs to the extent that managing a house-to-house collections operation could become unsustainable.
We sincerely hope that the proposal is reconsidered in light of the burden this would place on charities.
Jude Walker, executive director, Small Woods Association
Trusted and Independent – the report’s title – sums up the charitable sector’s desired image. The report goes a long way towards reshaping the sector so that it retains that image – providing more ways to regulate potentially unsound or ill-managed charities, and reining in the excesses of some of the larger charities, such as inappropriate street fundraising.
Charities are businesses that benefit society rather than shareholders. By pushing forward on CIOs the report will help to encourage a more enterprising culture across the sector. The proposal for tighter regulation combined with simplified administration will enable the sector to mature.
The only recommendation that I am concerned by is the proposed payment of trustees by charities with more than £1m turnover. Small Woods is not at that level of turnover yet, but if we were I would be extremely reluctant to pay our trustees – their time is the only thing that keeps the charity within the accepted definition of the voluntary and community sector, and I value my board’s commitment and interest all the more because it is voluntary.
Alistair McLean, chief executive, Fundraising Standards Board
Far from being a poisoned chalice, Lord Hodgson’s decision to let the sector bodies take the reins for fundraising regulation is an important catalyst that must see us all come together and take action.
Charities and fundraising suppliers have been quick to adapt to self-regulation of fundraising, showing great commitment to the scheme. But this review identifies that the self-regulatory landscape needs to be streamlined and the public need to understand who to contact if they wish to complain. There is some confusion about where the boundaries lie between the sector bodies and regulators and we must fix that as an immediate priority, or face a very real risk of statutory regulation.
It is down to us to make sure it works efficiently, both for practitioners and the general public. The review is a golden opportunity to review the division of roles, working through any areas of duplication to come up with real solutions that will ensure fundraisers and the public alike are clear about exactly who does what.
Lord Hodgson and the public are united in their call for greater transparency and accountability from charities and a robust regulatory framework for fundraising is paramount in delivering this.
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 20, August 2012