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New law to require further transparency on fundraising methods

New law to require further transparency on fundraising methods

The Government is to introduce new legislation to tighten rules on how fundraisers approach people who are vulnerable and how charities report on their fundraising activities. The measures will be introduced as an amendment to the Charities Bill on Monday 13 July.

The legislation will require:

* all new fundraising contracts between charities and fundraisers to “explicitly state how the vulnerable are protected”. (It is not clear if this is fundraising staff or fundraising agencies).

* major charities to reveal fundraising methods to show that fundraising “is being conducted properly”.

In addition, a review of fundraising regulation will be undertaken “to consider if further powers needed”.

The move follows four successive days in which The Daily Mail’s investigations unit has criticised one telephone fundraising agency’s activities and alleged that some national charities use high pressure fundraising techniques including to people who are vulnerable, by which they mean people suffering from dementia.

The Daily Mail had earlier criticised two other telephone fundraising agencies, and suggested that volunteer fundraiser Mrs Olive Cooke, who is thought to have committed suicide, did so as a result of too many charity fundraising communications.

“Aggressive fundraisers and rogue charities”

The Cabinet Office’s announcement of these measures described them as being designed to “protect the vulnerable from aggressive fundraisers and rogue charities“. These were “tough new measures“.

Although charities are required by law to have written agreements with ‘professional fundraisers’ (agencies that carry out fundraising work on their behalf) and ‘commercial participators’ (organisations that generate income for charities from sales of their products), there has been no requirement to specify the of how money is raised.

Once the new law is published charities with annual incomes of over £1 million a year will be required to publish details of their fundraising activities, including the use of professional fundraising agencies, as part of their annual reports, approved by trustees.

PM expresses thanks to The Daily Mail

Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Civil Society explicitly thanked The Daily Mail for its role in presenting these allegations.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Our charities undertake vital work, bringing communities together and providing support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. But the conduct of some fundraisers used by them is frankly unacceptable and damages the reputation of the sector as a whole, which is why we’re introducing a new law to make sure charities raise funds in the right sort of way.

“I’d also like to express my thanks to The Daily Mail for bringing this issue to light.”

Minister for Civil Society thanks The Daily Mail

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson added:

“After the tragic death of Olive Cooke, I made clear that the behaviour of charities had to change or we would take action – today I am delivering on that promise.

“This law will force charities to face up to their responsibilities and I’d like to thank The Daily Mail for uncovering some of these shocking allegations.”

The case of the death of Olive Cooke was used by The Daily Mail and another national newspaper to suggest that, in the words of the front page headlines, she was “hounded to death” by fundraisers. Her family denied that the charity communications she received had anything to do with her death.

Review to consider need for further legislation

The Cabinet Office confirmed that Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), will chair an “urgent wide-ranging review” to consider whether further powers are required. Sir Stuart was invited by the Minister of Civil Society to chair this review of fundraising self-regulation. The review will report to the Minister by mid-September.

Sir Stuart commented:

“Britain’s charities are the backbone of our society. For every challenge we face, there is a charity that will help – be that facing cancer or saving our precious green spaces. They are able to do this because of the trust, confidence and overwhelming generosity of the British people.

“We simply cannot allow aggressive fundraising tactics to damage this trust. The public demands a simple and effective system of regulation. My review will respond to clear public concern about fundraising that has overstepped the mark. Charities must maintain the highest standards, including taking a firm grip on how the agencies they employ are interacting with the public.”

The NCVO does not have a role in fundraising regulation. It is the largest charity sector umbrella body in England, with over 11,000 members.

The review group will make recommendations to ministers and the charity and fundraising sectors on any changes that might be needed “to ensure that self-regulation succeeds in protecting the interests and the confidence of the public, whilst serving beneficiaries”.

Review welcomed by the Institute of Fundraising

Peter Lewis, CEO of the Institute of Fundraising, the national membership body for fundraisers in the UK, welcomed the proposed review of the self-regulation of fundraising. He said:

“We look forward to working with the government and Sir Stuart to make sure it delivers a robust self-regulatory system that we can all be proud of”.

He added:

“It is absolutely right that Trustees should take responsibility for the fundraising activities of their charities, and we are looking forward to developing guidance on this with the Charity Commission, NCVO, ACEVO and CFG.

“It is also absolutely right that charities have to take responsibility for the activities of any subcontracted agencies, and ensure those agencies behave in an appropriate and respectful way to any vulnerable or potentially vulnerable people .”



Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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