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New guidance weighted against professional fundraisers, says Institute

New guidance weighted against professional fundraisers, says Institute
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New guidance weighted against professional fundraisers, says Institute

Fundraising | Gemma Ware | 1 Feb 2008

The Institute of Fundraising has branded new government guidance for fundraisers “highly complicated and confusing” and said it discriminates against charities which use professional fundraising organisations.

The guidance on professional fundraising and commercial participation was published last week by the Office of the Third Sector (OTS) in advance of legislation coming into force on 1 April.  The new regulations mean paid fundraisers must declare up-front how much of each donation goes to charity and how much they are paid.

The law applies to anybody being paid to raise money, and will affect street and door-to-door fundraisers and telephone collectors, as well as shops that donate a portion of the sale of a product to charity. It does not affect volunteer fundraisers.

Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute, said the suggested declarations in the guidance discriminated against those charities that used professional fundraising organisations and favoured organisations that rely on volunteers.

“The declaration is such an enormous mouthful that I think many groups, or many charities, would try and maximise their volunteering use.”

Boswell said time would tell how fundraisers used the declarations, but that a potential impact could be third-party fundraising becoming less successful.

He added that the changes will not have been on the horizon for many charities, who may find themselves caught out when the legislation comes into force.

“If there is a large area of activity planned for the near future, but post-1 April, then the need for retraining of staff, both within the charity and within the professional fundraising organisation, is really quite considerable. I think what we want to see is some sort of understanding around enforcement of the regulation in its early stages.”

Boswell admitted there was a danger the Institute’s criticism could appear to reject the principles of openness and transparency, but that this “couldn’t be further from the case”.

“What we’re being critical of is not the guidance itself, it’s the original legislation.” 

Boswell also raised concerns about the short timescale for fundraisers, and highlighted that a consultation on the guidance closes on 31 May, two months after the legislation comes into force. He blamed this on a “lack of resource” in the OTS, which he said had not made the fundraising sections of the Charities Act a priority.

However, a spokeswoman for the OTS said the claim the timing was down to resources was “entirely unfounded” and said the date was deliberately set to ensure fundraisers’ experiences were taken into account in the final draft.

“The guidance is simply there to help, it is not mandatory. The law, which is mandatory, was passed two years ago which should have been adequate time for fundraisers to prepare.”

Stefan Lipa, chair of the Association of Fundraising Consultants, said that although the OTS had tried to make the examples contained in the Act as “crystal clear as possible”, he thought many fundraisers didn’t even realise the law had changed.

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