Data released this month in the Fundraising Regulator’s first annual report has revealed that the number of complaints received about fundraising activities has fallen in proportion to last year.
This is extremely promising news, as concerns and complaints about fundraising had been increasing in frequency and vociferousness over recent years. In response to fundraising’s precarious public perception, efforts for regulation and transparency have been made by the charities, fundraisers, and regulators. And yet, until August, private-site fundraising was operating largely unpoliced.
In March, a webinar was hosted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in which the policy manager of the Fundraising Regulator, Stephen Service, voiced his concerns regarding fundraising taking place on privately-owned sites. He announced that he was hoping to see supermarkets, shopping centres, and so on, to be held to higher standards of fundraising.
At the time, his reasoning for the singling-out of this specific area of fundraising were explained: unlike other forms of face-to-face fundraising, it had been allowed to functioned without a rule book of its own, and many felt the same standards that applied to street and door-to-door fundraising should be applied to private-site fundraising activities.
Following the webinar, the Fundraising Regulator worked in collaboration with the Institute of Fundraising to produce a firm set of rules for fundraising carried out on private sites. This resulted in the new rulebook for private-site fundraising which was published and implemented in August and can be read here
The organisations took note of the need to move away from very rigid, prescriptive rules (such as a finite number of times a fundraiser can ask for a donation) in favour of outlining the importance of sensitivity when raising in face-to-face situations. Consideration was given to the very changeable and varied types of fundraising that go on, even in terms of what is being requested: time, money, or participation. Some things are more difficult to explain, or to register for, and so more questions may at times be necessary without the donor being made to feel overly pressured.
Ahead of the revelation of the new guidebook, a document was published by the Fundraising Regulator entitled Consultation on changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice . The foreword informs that the changes being implemented were in response to poor practice which had been highlighted in several news stories. Seemingly, they sensed the public concern about how charities seek donations, and noted that public trust in charities can no longer be taken for granted, and the onus is now on the sector to win back confidence from the public.
The rulebook’s grounding in attempts to address these concerns is clear. It includes new standards like not behaving in any way that could induce anxiety or surprise to members of the public; not behave in any ways which could negatively impact the charity’s reputation; ensure that pedestrain paths are not being obstructed; not disrupting the way that businesses in the vicinity are conducted; and wearing an identification badge and, where appropriate, charity branded clothing.
It comes after public opinions of fundraising are cracking even regarding the platforms which charities use to gather funds, after JustGiving came under scrutiny for having made a profit of £20million a year, despite its public perception as a non-profit organisation. The spotlight became brighter and harsher in the wake of the tragedies which took place over the summer as further figures of JustGiving’s profits were published. The platform reportedly gained £390,000 from donations made in response to the Manchester and London terror attacks and the fire at Grenfell. The sector clearly needs to work on transparency to avoid losing some people’s confidence altogether, which could result in a lull in fundraising for truly worthwhile causes.