Feedback on NICVA's Fundraising Regulator Consultation (9th September 2016)

On 9th September 56 trustees, CEOs & fundraisers took part in a consultation event on fundraising self-regulation for NI: this article is a brief distillation of the discussions which ensued.

Seamus McAleavey, CEO, NICVA

Opening the day's proceedings, Seamus McAleavey from NICVA urged the sector to, “consider this an important issue of governance that affect organisations’ reputation both individually and collectively.  Northern Ireland has to have an effective response”. Seamus stated that NI charities needed to find the most effective way to balance the inherent tensions between raising money and protecting their reputations and engendering public trust.  Seamus stated that it was key to remember that whatever system was chosen was voluntary in nature and that the Government had tasked the sector with regulating itself in terms of fundraising.  However, it was clear that, were we not to do so effectively, the Government would step in and regulate the sector’s fundraising activities itself.  

Frances McCandless, CEO, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI)

Frances McCandless CEO of CCNI said that it was vitally important that the sector did something regarding fundraising regulation and that they did it soon. She also reinforced that this is an issue for all charities big or small and that the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. She highlighted the recent CCNI research into the trust and reputation of charities and commented that although the headlines were overall very positive, some other aspects were not so good. Although 66% have the same level of trust 26% said that their trust in charities had decreased. She highlighted that fundraising practices were specifically mentioned, such as 66% said that they thought that fundraising methods made people feel uncomfortable.

Gerald Oppenheim, Head of Policy, Fundraising Regulator for England and Wales

Gerald Oppenheim from the Fundraising Regulator for England and Wales began by saying that one of the key reasons behind the setting up of the Fundraising Regulator was to promote good fundraising practice.  He then practically demonstrated this commitment by stating that one of the key tasks for the Fundraising Regulator in winter 2016/spring 2017 is to consult on, and subsequently review, the Code of Fundraising Practice. So far they have dealt with 149 complaints and 211 enquiries. Interestingly, their very first complaint was from someone in Northern Ireland:  happily this was able to be easily resolved by contacting the charity which then followed up extremely effectively with the member of the public concerned.  Gerald also emphasised the importance of ensuring that charities get consent from the public, donors and supporters. The Fundraising Regulator is now also working closely with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to reflect the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and encourage good practice and consent.



Mhairi Maguire, Head of Legal and Corporate Governance at ENABLE Scotland, speaking on behalf of the Scottish Working Group

Mhairi Maguire from the Scottish Working Group described the situation in Scotland. SCVO, at the request of the Scottish Government, commissioned a review into fundraising practice in Scotland in July 2015.  The Scottish Fundraising Working Group was subsequently created in December 2015.  There then followed a period of engagement with the sector, key stakeholders, auditors, legal firms, universities, and donors, etc.  Consultation on the three potential options for fundraising self-regulation resulted in a clear mandate for the enhanced self-regulation model for Scottish charities. A short life Implementation Group was therefore created to oversee the set-up of an Independent Panel and Scottish charities and OSCR took an enhanced role in handling complaints through procedures deemed to be both robust and proportionate.



Round Table Discussions

The roundtable discussion gave an opportunity to consider the pros and cons of NI joining the Fundraising Regulator versus other available options, as well as discussing the support that was needed and the potential next steps. A summary of the roundtable discussions is available here but a few of the main points from the feedback at the end of the session were:

  • Need for wider consultation to engage the sector and the public
  • Need to take a holistic approach as part of governance
  • Need for more information about the options and the implications of each one
  • Need for support and training on good fundraising practice and easy to understand guidance
  • Need to have interim solutions now in order to manage risk as consultation process and decision may take some time.
  • Need to include donors in the consultation and build trust
  • A fundraising health check would be extremely helpful:  it would help charities audit their fundraising practice and also help Boards manage risk
  • Information about what’s happening in Republic of Ireland from Fundraising Ireland should be sought
  • The question also arose as to how would any further consultation would be resourced
  • The question as to how NI would be represented if we were to go with the Fundraising Regulator also needs to be answered.

What is extremely clear is that the issue of fundraising regulation is ultimately one for trustees to be discussing and taking responsibility for ensuring that there are suitable systems and procedures in place.  Equally important is that we consider it from the public’s point of view and ensure that it is easy for them to understand and know where to go to if a problem occurs.

Next Steps...

Finally, this consultation event is clearly the start of a process for the sector in NI and, in support of this, NICVA has committed to some initial actions:

  • Discuss feedback from the consultation and resourcing issues with Department for Communities
  • Discuss the possibility of an interim arrangement with Fundraising Regulator for England and Wales
  • Produce a summary of the Roundtable discussions and suggested recommendations and make these available on our website
  • Continue to keep the sector updated on progress 

Catch up on previous articles relating to the debate:

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