The Charity Commission has said it cannot de-register charities for breaches of fundraising practice, after the chair of the Fundraising Regulator threatened it last week - prompting angry responses from fundraisers.
In an interview on Friday with the You & Yours programme on BBC Radio 4, Lord Grade said that charities guilty of serious fundraising misconduct could have their charitable status or trustees removed by the Charity Commission in its ‘backstop’ role, as set out in the Etherington Review.
Grade calls this the ‘nuclear option’ among sanctions potentially available to the Fundraising Regulator, and said it could be deployed if the regulator itself reported a charity to the Commission.
But a spokesman for the Charity Commission denied that the charity regulator has the power to de-register a charity for any breaches of fundraising regulation.
He said that the Charity Commission only had the power to remove an organisation from the register under sec.32 of the Charities Act: if the Commission “no longer considers it a charity” or if “any charity has ceased to exist or does not operate”.
‘Writing cheques the Commission can’t cash’
Grade's comments prompted criticism from those within the sector.
Ian MacQuillin, director of fundraising think-tank Rogare, said: "The Fundraising Regulator talks a lot about trust and this is a trust issue. Does Lord Grade think that shooting from the hip on national radio is going to improve or damage public trust in charities, and does he think it's going to engender the trust of charities in the new regulator?
"Fundraisers are continually told not to deny criticism or shoot the messenger. There are legitimate questions about what the Fundraising Regulator is doing.
“Perhaps Lord Grade should engage with those questions rather than dismissing them and writing cheques the Charity Commission has said it can't cash."
Joe Saxton, director of nfpSynergy said that the Fundraising Regulator’s approach so far has involved “a lot of stick and not very much carrot” and said that it perhaps needs to make its communications approach more positive. “It’s faintly reminiscent of the Government’s ‘Fear Campaign’ to remain in the European Union”.
A spokesman from the IoF/PFRA said that everyone in the sector would like clarity around the issues, particularly the nuclear option discussed by Grade.