Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, has criticised the Institute of Fundraising for not behaving in a “grown-up” manner and fighting a “rearguard action” rather than supporting the new Fundraising Regulator.
Etherington conducted a review of fundraising regulation in the summer, at the request of Rob Wilson, minister for civil society, following widespread criticism of charity fundraising practices in the press. He recommended the creation of a new Fundraising Regulator which would take control of the Code of Fundraising Practice, previously set by the Standards Committee of the Institute of Fundraising.
Last week Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said that the Institute of Fundraising will only pass on control of the Code to the new regulator “when we are confident that it has fundraising expertise within it both at governance level and staff team”.
Etherington told Civil Society News that the Institute of Fundraising was fighting a “rearguard action” against transferring the Code to the regulator. He also suggested that the sector risked government losing patience and introducing statutory regulation because charites were not accepting the need to change.
“Rearguard actions are pointless now,” he said. “Any attempt to protect the Code is pointless. These people must think they’re on Planet Zog. This isn’t grown-up behaviour from the IoF.”
He said the fundraisers have been “inevitably defensive” about some of the proposals in his review, and that “their professional associations sometimes reflect that defensiveness”.
He said the charity sector “did not realise how close it had come” to government imposing a statutory regulator, and that many ministers would have preferred a tougher solution than the one accepted following his review.
“I think [some people in the fundraising sector] don’t think the government means business. But they definitely do,” he said. “I think Rob Wilson had to fight his corner to prevent statutory regulation. I think he had to fight quite hard.
“People are going to lose patience. The government is going to say ‘look, never mind, bugger off’ and introduce statutory regulation. They aren’t pissing about.”
Etherington was also highly critical of the previous system of self-regulation, which involved the Fundraising Standards Board enforcing a Code set by the IoF, with limited sanctions, with additional regulation of face-to-face and door-to-door fundraising by the Professional Fundraising Association.
“The structure of self-regulation was pitiful,” he said. “You couldn’t have found a worse structure if you’d tried. There were three organisations who had shared it out between them, and they were at daggers drawn. They were so unhappy with each other that they disagreed with one another in public in front of a Parliamentary committee.”
Peter Lewis responds
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said in response: “These comments misrepresent the position of the Institute of Fundraising. The Institute has taken swift action over the last nine months to address the poor fundraising practice brought to light, strengthening the Code in key areas.
“We called for and fully support the new independent regulator with stronger powers and are working to pass the Code over once the new regulator is established with fundraising expertise within its committees and staff team.
“Fundraised income is the lifeblood of charities. As the body representing UK fundraisers and fundraising organisations we have a responsibility to support their vital work raising money for good causes, to speak on the issues fundraisers are concerned about and to promote best practice across the sector.”