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A cross border skirmish that might well end in tears

A cross border skirmish that might well end in tears

The recent cross border skirmish initiated by the SSPCA over people in Scotland mistakenly donating money to the RSPCA generated a lot of coverage in mainstream, sector and specialist press. And created a lot of chat in the sector too, certainly on this side of the border.

The common response I picked up was that it was not good for the sector as a whole for dirty linen to be washed in public. And that surely there was a better way of solving this issue.

The Institute of Fundraising seemed to think so, publishing ./guidance on cross border fundraising last year. But it puzzled me then, and continues to do so, why it was not done as a fully fledged Code of Practice. This would have brought it under the remit of the FRSB (and that’s more than enough hyperlinks for one post).

A cross border fundraising Code of Practice would give the FRSB powers to investigate any potential breach brought to its attention through a complaint. That way the substance of this issue could be deliberated in a calm and dignified manner and any breach of the Code dealt with appropriately.

Even without a Code, the RSPCA allegedly failing to inform Scottish donors of the destination and purpose of their donation could be covered by the principles of the Fundraising Promise. Is such behaviour misleading, unaccountable and opaque? I’ll leave that for others to decide.

Yet there is a single fundamental flaw to any of this happening: the SSPCA, according to the FRSB member database on its website, is not an FRSB member. It once was – I recall being delighted when they, as one of Scotland’s fundraising charities, joined in the scheme’s early days. Which means any complaints from the public cannot be considered.

In a follow up to the initial media activity, the SSPCA indicated it was now asking the Scottish Parliament to implement cross border fundraising regulations. This would mean statutory intervention in the fundraising realm for the first time.

Is that wise or desirable? A foot in the door would surely make it much easier for MSPs and MPs south of the border to make the case for other areas of fundraising to be compulsorily and statutorily regulated. Perhaps the SSPCA needs to think through the potential consequences of such a call – to all of its fundraising activity, never mind anyone else’s. They might also want to consider rejoining the FRSB where any legitimate complaints about RSPCA fundraising activity in Scotland could be investigated and adjudicated upon.

Before it all ends in tears for fundraisers everywhere in the UK, perhaps it’s time for the Institute to pay both charities a friendly visit and mediate a solution to the current sorry mess.

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