How you can shape the future of fundraising in Scotland
Richard Hamer on how charities can re-shape Scotland's fundraising landscape.
Many of those working in Scotland’s third sector will be asking themselves, ‘why should I care about the regulation of telephone fundraisers, chuggers or charity begging letters?’
You may be one. If you rely on funding from a local authority, the Big Lottery or similar body, or are a very small organisation, then I’m guessing you almost certainly think this way.
It’s my job to persuade you that you’re misguided. Because fundraising’s annus horribilis in 2015, and the repercussions, affect you in two ways.
Firstly, the way charities fundraise affects your brand; how people see you and your organisation, whether you fundraise or not. The small minority who got it so badly wrong in 2015 have led to your polished reputations being tarnished by association.
The way charities fundraise affects your brand; how people see you and your organisation, whether you fundraise or not
Secondly, when the media gets a whiff of bad practice in charities they start searching for more. Fundraising malpractice led to questions about CEO pay, regardless of whether those CEOs were paid from fundraised income. And these questions show no sign of diminishing; take the witch-hunt around Age UK’s energy deals in the last week as an example.
So, how did we get here and what should you do?
The death of Olive Cooke, and a national newspaper’s expose of telephone fundraising practices, caused a media frenzy and consequential public outcry. It also led to two reviews of the existing sector-led, voluntary, system of fundraising regulation.
You’d be forgiven for not realising that the first, the Etherington Review, didn’t apply to Scotland. This is partly because it reviewed the current, UK-wide, system of regulation. It is also because the report failed to make it explicitly clear that it covered only England and Wales, as well as confusing matters by explaining OSCR’s role in its proposed solution.
The second review, that I worked with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to produce, looked at what was right for Scotland. It was clear that there was a grumbling discontent about fundraising methods, as much from those in the third sector as the public and donors. A change in culture in fundraising was clearly needed, as was a greater degree of transparency.
Ultimately, the widespread loss of faith in the current fundraising regulatory system meant a new one was required. Charities needed to grasp and own this system, rather than leaving it to the Institute of Fundraising, statutory regulators or even government to do so.
Which brings us to your short and simple task. Following SCVO’s fundraising summit, the Scottish Fundraising Working Group has developed three options for a new system of fundraising regulation in Scotland. Each addresses the role of the intermediary between the public and charity, currently performed by the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) in a different way.
These are: option 1: A UK-wide Fundraising Regulator acts as intermediary in place of the FRSB. Option 2: a new Scottish Fundraising Regulator acts as intermediary. Option 3: no intermediary: charities and OSCR have an enhanced role.
We need your views on which is the correct direction to take – because this is very much a consultation, and not a fait accompli.
And what will the Fundraising Preference Service mean in Scotland? Well, you’ll need to read the consultation document to find that out…
Richard Hamer is lead partner at Animate Consulting.