It was interesting to read last week how the Institute of Fundraising was now taking action against charities that it believes contravene its codes of professional practice and in particular the code covering best practice in DM. Their intention to apply a little friendly pressure before reporting these organisations to the FRSB has to be applauded.
My concern now lies with what happens next – if they should fail to comply the FRSB has few powers to control the activities of non-members and will be left to work behind the scenes to push for a change of heart. I wish them every success and so should we all. If they fail to control errant fundraising the government may yet intervene to impose greater regulation on the sector and that could be disastrous. I have seen first-hand in the United States the chaos that results when politicians and bureaucrats who don’t understand the profession feel compelled to legislate.
In my view we must now do all that we can to avoid this scenario – including – should it prove necessary – reviewing the way that the FRSB is constituted and funded. I would personally prefer a scenario where fundraising is controlled in the same way as other forms of marketing communication. We need to give our regulator power over all fundraising conducted in this country and the powers to take action against offenders if and when an organization refuses to change tack.
Why not adopt an approach identical to that of the Advertising Standards Authority?
We might fund our system of self-regulation by having the Treasury take a tiny slice off the top of Giftaid and using this to properly fund the scheme. It need only be a miniscule percentage that in reality would cost organizations no more than they are paying now – but which would create a much firmer funding base as literally every organisation would then be compelled to contribute.
In this scenario the FRSB could be constituted to consider complaints about any form of fundraising from any UK charity. Errant fundraising practice could be investigated and offenders (should a complaint proceed to an adjudication) could be named in an annual report. Anyone failing to comply with an adjudication could be referred to the Secretary of State under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations (1988) who in extreme cases could issue an injunction to prevent repetition. In the wider world of advertising that power is VERY rarely used and I can’t believe it would EVER be needed in the context of fundraising, but the very fact that this avenue were to exist would create a powerful incentive to take our Codes of Fundraising Practice as seriously as they deserve.
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