“The charity sector has been through a high profile and difficult period since 2015, when concerns about fundraising practices and donor protection made headline news.
The Government at Westminster shared these concerns and asked Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, to chair a cross-party review of fundraising regulation. His review, published in September 2015 and supported by the Government, the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Commission for England and Wales, called for an independent charitable fundraising regulator, supported and funded by charities as a commitment to self-regulation.
The new Fundraising Regulator was thus born in 2016, not only to strengthen charity regulation but, crucially, to restore public trust in fundraising. Our initial remit was England and Wales and we have close working arrangements in place in Scotland. We are pleased that Northern Ireland is now joining us.
Following a period of consultation, NICVA invited us to oversee and regulate fundraising in Northern Ireland. As part of our commitment we will soon be looking for an individual to become a member of our board – representing Northern Ireland’s fundraising charities and donors with a voice at our table.
Working with the sector
Despite only just celebrating our first birthday, the Regulator has been busy working with the sector and helping charities think about the way they fundraise. We have spoken at around 150 conferences and other events, including consultation and briefing meetings arranged by NICVA.
We also have Memorandums of Understanding in place with all our key partners, including the Charity Commissions in England and Wales and Northern Ireland and the Scottish Independent Panel on Fundraising. We also have Memorandums with the Information Commissioner and the Institute of Fundraising and will soon have one in place with the Gambling Commission.
We regulate all forms of fundraising. Importantly, we assumed responsibility for the Code of Fundraising Practice from the Institute of Fundraising as well as the associated rulebooks for on-street, door-to-door and private site fundraising from the former Public Fundraising Regulatory Association. This was another recommendation of the cross-party review intended to safeguard the independence of fundraising regulation.
The Code applies right across the UK and maintains standards for charitable fundraising. On 31 July 2017, we published our first set of changes to the Code following a consultation, and more changes are set to come. These will bring the Code up to date on data protection and consent, while also making the Code easier to use.
Similarly, we have issued guidance that outlines how charities should approach consent, legitimate interest and the use of data charities hold about their donors and other supporters. These have one eye on next May’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); both our guidance and the Code will be further updated when GDPR is implemented.
Fundraising Preference Service
On our first anniversary in July, we launched the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) – a service which enables members of the public to block phone, email, text and mail communications from named charities. This gives individuals far more control over their contacts with charities.
The successful launch of the FPS and subsequent invitation from NICVA to oversee fundraising means that we expect that the service will be rolled out to include charities in Northern Ireland from January next year. In the meantime, donors in Northern Ireland can already use the service to block communications from charities based in England and Wales.
Already, we have seen significant demand for the FPS. It is an important tool and one that will benefit both charities and the public, helping to rebuild trust between the two.
Our role in Northern Ireland will mean that some of Northern Ireland’s larger fundraising charities will come into the scope of our levy and many more will be able to register with us.
The voluntary levy gives us the resources to regulate the sector. It is collected from charities in England and Wales (and soon Northern Ireland) that spend £100,000 or more each year on fundraising. The levy is banded in steps ranging from £150 a year to £15,000 for the largest fundraising charities. We are hugely grateful to over 1400 charities in England and Wales who have paid our first-year levy, and look forward to greater collaboration across the UK as we now enter our second-year levy.
Meanwhile, smaller charities spending less than £100,000 a year on fundraising will be able to voluntarily register with us for an annual fee of £50, as nearly 900 charities in England and Wales have already done.
Paying the levy and registering with us demonstrates that a charity is serious about committing to a high standard of fundraising. What’s more, registration is noted on our public register and charities can display our registration badge for fundraising materials – a visual representation of a charity’s respect for its donors.
It has been a successful 12 months for us, and we are extremely excited to work positively and collaboratively with NICVA, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and most of all with charities across Northern Ireland.
This is the first of a series of blogs for NICVA, so watch this space.”