Gerald Oppenheim: We will stand by fundraisers as they adapt and innovate

27 May 2020 Voices

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, explains how the body will keep on supporting charities as they readjust their fundraising to the new environment

The challenges facing the charity sector in the current climate, particularly in relation to how, where and who can fundraise, cannot be underestimated. Similarly, the lifeline that charities provide to local communities at a time of national crisis, cannot be overstated.

Right now, charities across the country are making extremely complex decisions about how they adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic, while still raising money to support their vital work.

It was with these pressures in mind that during the early weeks of the pandemic, the Fundraising Regulator encouraged the public to continue to support charities as demand for their services increased.

What we could not have predicted a few months ago was the emergence of fundraising efforts that would capture the public mood. For example Captain Tom Moore (soon to be Colonel Sir Tom), who has raised a staggering amount of money for NHS Charities and has inspired many more people across the UK to launch their own fundraising appeals.

At the point the pandemic started, the Fundraising Regulator developed practical guidance for the public – some of whom may be unfamiliar about what they need to do to make sure their activity is ethical and meets legal obligations – which is designed to equip people with the tools they need to run successful online fundraising appeals. We’ve also been reminding the public to make sure they give safely to registered charities throughout the pandemic. 

Fundraisers and charities are becoming increasingly innovative

The achievement of Captain Tom and other high profile appeals across the UK illustrate the hard work that is carried out on a daily basis for charities by fundraisers, who have been hugely impacted by the pandemic.

Much of their work focuses on their ability to interact with the public at events, during street collections or when face-to-face fundraising, for example. These methods have quite rightly been paused for the foreseeable future, so fundraisers and charities are becoming increasingly innovative as they look to new ways to fundraise. 

It is undoubtedly a difficult time for charities who rely on their ability to fundraise to support an increase in demand for their services. This is why we have been working hard with partners to deliver clear guidance throughout this crisis to help charities and fundraisers make the right, and safe, decisions for their operations. We are working closely with our counterparts at the Charity Commission and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising to ensure the message to fundraisers is consistent. 

In the coming weeks, we will be publishing new guidance, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, to help charities consider how they might begin to reintroduce some fundraising methods safely and in accordance with the government’s guidelines.

I want to be clear that the guidance does not mean that pre-pandemic business-as-usual fundraising should resume – in fact, far from it. Our guidance should be used as a supplementary tool, to aid charity decision making about the unique risks each organisation faces. 

It is important that the fundraising sector continues to function with the understanding that there is a chance that our lives may never return to how they were before the pandemic.

We all need to adapt to the new ways of working and that includes how we fundraise. But whatever our future looks like, the Fundraising Regulator stands ready to support charities, offer guidance and support, and most importantly listen to you, the fundraisers, so that we can ensure that vital causes across the UK continue to be adequately supported whilst ensuring we make charities aware of public concerns.

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