A new regulator for charities has been recommended in a report published today (23 September), which would act as a watchdog to ensure they do not break fundraising rules. The review into charity self-regulation was led by Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, amid concerns over charities using aggressive fundraising tactics and claims that too much pressure was being put on people to donate money.
The review, titled Regulating Fundraising for the Future, noted that the current Fundraising Standards Board (FSB) has been unable to effectively monitor fundraising activity and must be shut down. Etherington said a "new, more visible and effective fundraising regulator" was needed to replace it, which would give the public a place to go with concerns about charity fundraising and allow the regulator to refer to The Charity Commission to take legal action if needed. The body would also have the ability to investigate breaches of the code of fundraising practice without having to wait for public complaints and would be able to name and shame charities that consistently breach the rules.
"Britain is a tremendously generous country, and people have enormous goodwill for charities. But charities must not take that for granted," said Etherington. "[Charities] should inspire people to give, not pressure them to. We need to see a shift to long-term thinking where charities form meaningful relationships with donors. This will be a more sustainable approach."
The review panel included members of the House of Lords across different political parties and approached more than 100 voluntary sector organisations and experts for feedback. Alongside recommending the establishment of a new charity watchdog, the review also advised for the creation of a 'Fundraising Preference Service', which would allow people to easily opt out of fundraising communications and would be overseen by the new regulator. This would mean that charities would no longer be able to send fundraising requests or make phone calls to anyone who has opted out of communication, while giving the public the opportunity to still receive information from charities they are interested in supporting.
Welcoming the recommendations made by the review, Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said: "Our members have been clear throughout this process that they want to see a stronger and more robust system: a regulator with stronger sanctions and real teeth; greater powers of investigation; and a firm and clear expectation that all charities should have to comply with the standards that are agreed."
The new regulator would be funded by a levy on charities. The report was welcomed by charities across the country this morning, including the British Red Cross, which has described the report as a "historic opportunity" in a step towards rebuilding the trust between the charity sector and the public.
"We are very supportive of a new approach to the self-regulation of fundraising and of the creation of a single regulator with robust new powers," said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross. "We particularly welcome the vision of charities developing longer-term and deeper relationships with donors. Any new approach must balance the right to give, the right to ask, with the right to say no."
The hashtag #FundraisingReview was trending in the United Kingdom on Wednesday (23 September) morning as the charity sector, as well as members of the public, took to social media to welcome the report.