Third sector must take control of fundraising

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Scotland's third sector must act decisively and take charge of fundraising to maintain the public's trust 

22nd September 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Scots charities must take control of fundraising in Scotland before the decision is taken from them.

Findings from the Fundraising Review led by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) says the third sector in Scotland should act decisively to counter public concerns on the practice.

Charities should take greater ownership of fundraising, the review states, to maintain public trust while at the same time doing more to prevent vulnerable people being inundated with fundraising requests.

People should also be asked how they want to be treated by fundraisers, then the sector should jointly develop a fundraising guarantee for the public.

It comes as the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) called for a new fundraising regulator for the UK, saying the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) isn’t fit for purpose.

The NCVO review says a new regulator should set its own standards for fundraising good practice.

Public confidence remains high in Scotland

A survey into fundraising attitudes in Scotland by SCVO revealed more than half (59%) of respondents said their trust had stayed the same in the last year.

For most respondents trust in charities to fundraise responsibly has not changed.

Some 753 people responded to the online poll which showed that there had only been a small decrease in overall trust, primarily due to negative media stories highlighting poor practice.

The Olive Cooke case, as well as other negative stories in the media, were mentioned by numerous respondents.

Currently, the FRSB adjudicates against standards set by fundraisers themselves via their trade body, the Institute of Fundraising.

But this method has been weak according to the review.

The Institute of Fundraising’s code, which offers guidance to members, should also move to a new regulator, the review states.  

And a new ‘Fundraising Preference Service’ for the public to opt out of fundraising communications is recommended to rebuild public confidence.

Plans to tighten the rules governing charities across Britain come after the death of 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke, who was bombarded by requests from charities in the months before she took her own life.

Although her family say the grandmother suffered depression and aggressive fundraising was not to blame, there was public outcry when it emerged she was being bombarded with 260 letters a month from charities.

Prime minister David Cameron ordered charity regulators to launch a review of their practices.

Martin Sime, SCVO chief executive, said that while public standing of charity may be relatively robust in Scotland, it was not the time to rest on laurels.

He added that, in particular, the sector has to stay tuned-in to public concerns, take any complaints seriously and root out bad practice.

“The very future of our sector depends on keeping the public onside,” he said.

“Everything charities do hinges on public trust, so it’s absolutely critical that we sit up and listen to what people are telling us.

“We can and must do better.”

Self-regulation is still the best way to oversee fundraising in Scotland said Sime but the sector needed a much simpler approach.

“Charities and their trustees should take the lead in designing a new system of self-regulation,” he said.

“The review has given us a useful overview of the issues around fundraising. Now we want to see charities and other third sector organisations come together to find the answers to these challenges, and to set out a much more rigorous approach to self-regulation which everyone can trust.”

SCVO is to now lead a consultation on what shape increased regulation will take in Scotland and is expected to report back later in the year with its findings.

Responding to both SCVO's and NCVO's reviews, David Robb, chief executive of the Office of the Scotttish Charity Regulator (OSCR), said: "We welcome the reports and their proposals for clearer, more streamlined and more effective regulation of charity fundraising, so that the public can continue to give with confidence. 

"We were pleased to contribute our views about the need to offer greater protection for vulnerable people and look forward to working with other relevant bodies in the development of the new framework to ensure thatit reflect the needs of donors and charities in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"We will highlight the reports to Scottish charities, and I would urge the trustees of charities involved in fundraising to note their contents and recommendations in light of their overall duties," he added.

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