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RNIB opposes creation of new Fundraising Regulator and may not pay levy to fund it

 RNIB opposes creation of new Fundraising Regulator and may not pay levy to fund it
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RNIB opposes creation of new Fundraising Regulator and may not pay levy to fund it6

Fundraising | David Ainsworth | 17 Feb 2016

The RNIB opposes the creation of the new Fundraising Regulator, and may not pay the levy to fund it, its chief executive said today.

Lesley-Anne Alexander told Civil Society News that she would request more information before agreeing to pay, and that she felt threatened by an implication that if she did not pay the levy she would face statutory legislation.

She also criticised the composition of the regulator’s board, saying that it lacked charity expertise and had a “dismal skillset”, and questioned whether donations to her charity should pay the £300 a day the board members will be paid.

Fundraising levy

The Fundraising Regulator was proposed by the Etherington Review of fundraising regulation, which was set up at the request of the government following media scrutiny of charity fundraising practices.

It will replace the three bodies which currently have joint responsibility for fundraising regulation – the Institute of Fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board and the Public Fundraising Association.

The regulator has asked the UK’s 50 largest fundraising charities to fund set-up costs of £750,000 between them. They will also be asked to contribute to a regular annual levy to fund the regulator, along with all charities with a fundraising spend over £100,000.

But Alexander has said she opposes the creation of the new regulator, and will request more information before paying either levy.

“I will be writing back to express my concerns and ask for more information about what I get for my money,” she said. “I don’t understand what benefit I get. Until we do then we won’t be willingly paying. There may come a time when we are forced to pay, and we will have to do so, but reluctantly.”

She criticised the make-up of the board of the Fundraising Regulator, which was announced last week.

“I think we need more people actively engaged with the sector on the board,” she said. “Because at the moment the skillset is dismal.”

‘Public don’t want donations going on quangos’

She said she objected to charitable money being spent on government-mandated projects, and that there had been “veiled suggestions” from government representatives that charities would be forced to pay if they did not do so voluntarily.

“They said if we don’t pay up then they will legislate in our direction,” she said. “That feels like being threatened and I don’t like it.

“Why are we paying for a new government-sponsored quango? It’s completely ridiculous. The money to pay for this will come from public donations. Is that what my donors want their money going on? Paying for board members earning £300 a day. I’m not supposed to pay my own trustees but I’m supposed to use our donations to pay for these people?

“What about charities who get government grants? They aren’t allowed to spend that money to advocate on behalf of their beneficiaries but they can spend it on funding quangos?”

She said the correct decision was to improve existing regulators, not create new ones.

“I am positive about regulation, but we don’t need to layer on another level of regulation, on top of what’s already not working,” she said. “We already have a huge amount of regulation, including a Charity Commission. Why on earth do we need more? If the existing regulators can’t do the job, let’s fix them so they do.”

Regulator responds

A spokeswoman for the Fundraising Regulator said: "We recently wrote to the top 50 charities by fundraising expenditure, requesting a contribution to the set up costs of the Fundraising Regulator. 

"This letter was a follow-up to an earlier letter to those charities from the Institute of Fundraising and the Public Fundraising Association.  We have yet to receive a response from the RNIB."

Additional reporting by Hugh Radojev

Matthew B
Manager
23 Feb 2016

I completely agree with Lesley-Anne. More people lining their pockets and diverting funds from donations, which are already difficult enough to get, is not the answer.

We've had a review, the system doesn't work, attempt to fix it. If, and only if, that doesn't work, then we will need to take the very drastic action of starting again.

Neither the IoF, FRSB or PFRA were setup with the intention of failing. The failures came from poor decisions and guidance within each of these organisations. If we start again with a new regulator, there are many possible outcomes, but the most obvious two are:

1) We employ mostly new people. They haven't seen the poor decisions and how they contributed to the failures. All that was learned is lost. The same decisions are made and the failures are repeated.

2) We employ most of the same people. The people who have made the poor decisions are re-employed in the new organisation. They are never trained or held accountable. They ruin the new organisation.

We need to root out the issues in the existing organisations and then we can move on. With no accountability for past actions, there are no learns to take from what happened and nothing to stop it happening again.

Also, Stephen, I work for a charity, I am on the board of another and have served on various boards.

As a Trustee, if I'm not happy with what I'm being told or if I felt like I was being "mollified", I would see it as my role, and personal duty, to ask questions and gain further information or, where necessary, demand further information.

We don't require a new scheme of Governance to do that. We need Trutees who are willing to stand up for themselves, ask questions and ensure they know what's going on.

I would suggest anyone feeling this way takes some personal responsibility and asks questions and finds out what's going on in their charity, as is their role as a Trustee. I would also suggest discussing any concerns with their board and ensuring it doesn't keep happening.

Any trustee board that is "the last to know what is going on" is a negligent board.

Incidentally, I don't get my lunch paid for as a Trustee; we spend our board meetings working.

Charity Defender
17 Feb 2016

Good for you! About time charities started standing up for themselves. More of this please!

Nigel Readhead
Managing Director
https://myletterbox.co.uk
17 Feb 2016

Lesley-Anne Alexander makes some good points. If the government want effective self regulation (and all charities should also) then why not set up and do it yourselves.

The FPS which is causing so much concern actually already exists. I designed it in 2006 as being a charity fundraising supplier I could see that the public needed a way to easily opt out of mailings which they would never respond to and to opt in or allow those that were of interest. We have been running this now for 10 years and it is completely charity positive. Only 28% of users opt to stop everything over 70% tell us which charities they support, when and how!

I shall be writing to Lesley-Anne Alexander and encouraging her to get RNIB behind adopting https://myletterbox.co.uk as the FPS. It already exists can be adopted by all charities for negligible cost and charities can then go out to the media and get good publicity.

Bob
17 Feb 2016

Last week we had Government Ministers saying the "anti-lobbying clauses" were justified because public money should not be used to fund lobbying - don't agree but fair enough.

This week the same Government feels that it is OK for public donations (essentially the same as Government funding) should be channelled away from front-line delivery to fund a State-imposed Fundraising Regulator.

Show me the logic in that please??!!***

Claudia Mcvie
Chief Executive
Tenovus Cancer Care
17 Feb 2016

It is really good to see RNIB standing up for the sector. We will all suffer as a result of what appears to be a knee jerk reaction by Government. Whilst we support regulation one has to ask what is the Charity Commission's role in all of this?

Stephen
17 Feb 2016

"I’m not supposed to pay my own trustees"

Has she been misquoted? Regardless of whether or not they are paid, the board are supposed to employ the chief executive, not the other way round.

Too many of the larger charities I have worked at have a trustee board of clubbable sorts, carefully manoeuvred into the role and nurtured by a chief executive whose main qualification for the job seems to be a planet sized ego.

"Governance" means that trustees should be given a nice lunch and a story about how well all of the good work we are doing is going. This keeps them mollified until the next meeting, whilst the chief exec gets on with "leading" the organisation without any real scrutiny. When anything goes wrong, the trustee board are the last to know what is going on, or why it happened.

Perhaps if this wasn't so often the case there wouldn't be a need for an external fundraising regulator?

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