Fundraising Regulator has received some ‘angry phone calls’ about public fundraising 

14 Oct 2020 News

Chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, Gerald Oppenheim.

The Fundraising Regulator has received a few “angry phone calls” from the public about charity fundraisers, Gerald Oppenheim has said.

Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, was speaking at a panel, Priorities for fundraising regulation: protecting the public and supporting the vital work of fundraisers, at the Westminster Social Policy Forum yesterday.

He said that there has been massive “pressure to fundraise” in charities of all sizes, and that most “charities are very concerned to ensure that fundraising standards remain high”.

For Oppenheim, charities must balance the need to raise funds, with respecting the public.

He described the regulator as “almost a bridge between the public sector on the one side, the public and charities on the other”. So “agility and flexibility have been absolutely key” as has “reflecting both sides of the argument”.

“There is a level of public concern about being approached by a charity fundraiser at the moment,” he said.

As “there is still a nervousness” this is reflected in the regulator's case work.

Oppenheim said public fundraising “is perfectly legitimate, it is perfectly legal” provided guidance is respected. But the Fundraising Regulator has received some complaints and “angry phone calls”.

Therefore, there is a role for the regulator to take up cases where the charity “has not got the balance right”. 

Expect to publish guidance soon

From mid-March the regulator has been focusing on publishing guidance jointly with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (IoF), to ensure messages are “consistent and explained clearly”.

He said that fundraising was never illegal during lockdown “but obviously it would have been unwise for charities to try public fundraising”.

He said the situation is “changing very very rapidly” but said “we hope to publish more guidance soon” to support charities carrying out community events.

Oppenheim noted that there have sometimes been longer time scales on issuing advice than he would have liked. The IoF and Fundraising Regulator have been saying that they will update guidance for fundraisers since the rule of six was introduced, but are yet to do so. 

The Fundraising Regulator and IoF are working closely with the UK government so that it can be sure messages are the right ones.

“Unfortunately we have not been able to issue guidance yet on events fundraising because the situation is just so complicated at the moment,” he added.

Fundraising reporting: ‘Compliance is getting better’

Oppenheim said that the regulator has just published a review for charities in England and Wales about the requirements on charities to report their fundraising activities in their trustees annual report.

He said overall “compliance is getting better” but others are not reporting adequately.

It has made no changes to the Fundraising Code in 2020, as promised, but perhaps might need to make amendments in light of the pandemic. Oppenheim anticipates they will take a look in the new year.

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