Feedback from roundtable discussion at Fundraising Regulator event on 9 September

20 Sep 2016 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 26 Jan 2017

The roundtable discussion followed on from presentations by NICVA, CCNI, Fundraising Regulator for England and Wales and the Scottish Working Group at the consultation event on 9 September.

The discussions showed a difference of opinion within the sector and even within organisations opinions were divided.  Some were in favour of going with the existing Regulator and some wanting a local alternative. In terms of alternative options some people suggested an enhanced role for the CCNI or CCNI having the fundraising regulation as part of their regulatory role. The issue of All-Ireland organisations came up with the need to be informed and consult with the Republic of Ireland. There was mixed opinions amongst those that attended the event and no consensus in terms of a decision at this stage.

A strong message was the need to engage and consult more widely with the sector and other stakeholders especially with trustees and make sure that we informed the sector and took time to make the decision that was best for Northern Ireland, both for charities and the public.

Many also agreed that there needed to be an interim arrangement as it was high risk not to have anything in place while we were consulting and making the decision. Some suggested that this interim arrangement could be made with the Fundraising Regulator for England and Wales, and in the meantime to learn from what’s happening in the rest of the UK.

Delegates identified the need for more information, support and education in best practice in fundraising, complaints policies and procedures, handling complaints, data protection, applied consent, and other related topics. Also there was the need to provide more clear and accessible guidance on the Code of Fundraising Practice. Some suggested that fundraising checklist would be a good internal audit tool and could be promoted through the Developing Governance Group and the DIY Committee guide.

Pros and cons of FR

Pros

  • Simpler to have unified regulation in terms of clarity for the public – one route
  • If you are a national charity then it is simpler
  • System is already up and running so quicker to implement
  • Cost efficiency
  • Clarity for public
  • Don’t need to reinvent the wheel
  • Confidence for the public
  • Quick and easy and also that there is a kitemark that is easily used on fundraising materials
  • UK charities already paying UK regulator so no need for another, best to use model already established.
  • Could be more formalised written agreement with NI, has to include NI in the title.

Cons

  • Implications have not been fully working through
  • May not have good knowledge of our sector and different legal structures. eg Section 167 and other laws
  • May not be properly represented – will it be fair?
  • Query around all Ireland charities – where would complaints go for All Ireland organisations?
  • The regulation of fundraising should not be separate and distinct from other regulation of charities
  • CCNI should be properly resourced to do it.
  • It could be too confusing for the public eg expecting them to know the difference about which regulator to complain to for different things.
  • Being registered with the Fundraising regulator is not a guarantee that you’re following the code it’s simply stating that you’re paying a fee to be regulated and investigated by them. 
  • We should do our own thing, especially given that many of our organisations work on a North/South basis so linking in with the England/Wales model would be problematic
  • We already have the fundraising Code of Practice, we don’t need to pay a fee to a regulator to use it….the sector should be more proactive about educating charities to use the Code
  • The Fundraising regulator is basically a body that will be handling complaints; we should be encouraging charities to handle the complaints themselves.

Other options suggestions and questions

  • Separate body – could be local but where does money come from?
  • NI sub-group representation on the FR regulator group
  • Do we need our own body? Could we have a local helpline?
  • Could NI have a working group on regulation?
  • Is there a role of NICVA – conflict of interest regulating own members. How have SVCO resolved this?
  • Funding needs to underpin all this before finding a solution
  • Fear that we would be pressured into the UK model
  • It is important to consider a NI option, where local charities would have ownership – it was agreed that NI groups should be asked what they want.
  • We should also explore an All-Ireland approach - for those registered in the ROI etc
  • Discussion on the need to ask the Dept and for the CCNI to be resourced to oversee – it was thought that a levy idea would not work in NI and that the work should be centrally funded.
  • Resource issue a concern but why have another regulator when we already have the Charity Commission for NI? Accept the legislative framework is restrictive for them but is there a way they could take on a role.
  • Could there be a formal relationship developed between CCNI and the UK fundraising regulator that would cover it?
  • Expectation that CCNI as regulator should have a handle on this (even though it isn’t their role).  NI is too small to add another regulatory authority; it is just confusing to the public.
  • Local regulator with a local panel

Comments and questions about Scottish model and enhanced role for CCNI

Cons

  • CCNI need to be bought in
  • Opens gateway to statutory regulations
  • Scottish model is too weak and vague

Pros

  • Centralised place for public and charities
  • Bring in line with public perception
  • Keeps control in NI
  • Helps with ownership
  • Might help to engage the sector
  • Simplify things for cross-border

Questions

  • How is Scottish model funded?
  • Does SCVO fund regulator secretariat?
  • Where can public find info on Scottish model?
  • Questions over independent panel in Scotland – who is on it? How does it work? Leadership?
  • What about IOF representation?

Support needs

  • Engagement with Trustees and CEOs
  • Better understanding of the code
  • Standardisation of policies and procedures
  • Accessibility/overlapping advice from different bodies
  • Potential role of NICVA in educating the sector on how to meet regulator needs and not make breeches
  • What is regulator role in terms of education?
  • Information and education on best practice
  • Updates in legislation
  • Data protection
  • Do all charities have complaints policies and procedures in place?
  • Awareness on how fundraising self-regulation rolls out
  • Sessions like Data Fridays are good.
  • Clear guidance on applied consent
  • What we need is examples of good complaints procedures which can be shared with other charities…charities shouldn’t be scared of complaints but rather should be encouraging them.  Also give guidance on how to handle complaints
  • Could devise our own logo eg “we follow the Code of fundraising practice, if you have any complaints about our methods please let us know”
  • A fundraising practice checklist linked to the Code of practice would be extremely beneficial for the trustees. This is essentially about governance, the board needs to know that the law and best practice is being followed – a fundraising checklist would be a good internal audit tool. 
  • Publicise what bad practice is so that other charities can learn from it. 

Next Steps

  • Need interim decision – can’t be left wide open
  • Need government buy-in
  • Consultation for buy-in to engagement and ownership and establish who is taking the lead with charities, public etc
  • Engage the media with positive stories
  • EU data protection – how is this going to be interpreted for charities
  • Hold a series of events aimed at different stakeholders
  • We need wider engagement of sector. (50 people at the event) especially board engagement – governance issue
  • Self-regulation needs to be done – need something to fill the gap high risk to have nothing.
  • Need to show public we are taking it seriously
  • NICVA/IOF run an event to decide next steps- need to include trustees etc.
  • Case studies on good practice/complaints procedures
  • Could build on the IOF code and request  ministerial support
  • It is better to take time and agree the right approach rather than rush an agreement
  • Consultation would need resources and in the absence of funding it was suggested that organisations might be willing to pool resources to enable this to happen. 
  • Agreeing an interim arrangement with the UK, asking for the learning and or mentoring support from both the UK and Scotland. 
  • There was a fear that an interim arrangement would be become a permanent arrangement and for that reason an interim solution should not be agreed.
  • This was not just a Fundraisers issue but should be considered by boards and organisations
  • We should use this as an opportunity to improved fundraising practice
  • Gambling legislation urgently needs to be updated
  • We need to enhance self-regulation, this is not a ‘do nothing’ option, if we implement the suggestions as noted above. 
  • Build in a review process
  • Need to protect donors and speak to them, seek their views
  • We should be persuading Paul Given and the Department to align with NI Legislation

Further Questions

  • Who is responsible for taking things forward? – Timescale? Lead?
  • Need consultation with wider groups – what is the timescale?
  • Could NICVA do a publicity campaign?
  • If there is a question around voluntary registration should we ask why and why not?
  • What is government thinking? We need clarity on this – does the Exec have an opinion on it?
  • Does explicit consent overwrite FPS? How will donors understand this? What if they sign up and assume all contact will be stopped?
  • How can we facilitate the consultation? – Sector survey? Driven by NICC survey, FR one of many elements involved in public trust.
  • What does good self-regulation look like?
  • Who is going to own IOF code of Practice here?
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]