Five years of effective fundraising regulation: FR Blog

23 Jun 2021 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 23 Jun 2021

Gerald Oppenheim photo

As The Fundraising Regulator approaches its fifth anniversary, Gerard Oppenheim reflects on its impact on Northern Ireland in this latest FR blog.

2021 is a significant year for the Fundraising Regulator. It marks the fifth anniversary of when we first assumed responsibility for regulating charitable fundraising, from 7 July 2016. Our initial remit was for England and Wales only and, following a period of consultation coordinated by Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), we began regulating fundraising in Northern Ireland from September 2017.

We were set up to deliver a more visible approach to regulation, to protect donors and increase public trust in fundraising. And I’m proud to report that today the Fundraising Regulator continues to deliver independent self-regulation that ensures public protection, accountability, and good fundraising practice. I’m also pleased to say that there is a high level of support from charities through this model of regulation

Setting and upholding the fundraising standards

Over the past five years, we have undertaken the most significant overhaul of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) for more than a decade, launching the improved version in October 2019. So that all fundraisers can easily understand the expected standards, the new code has achieved the Plain English Crystal Mark for its jargon-free language. The new structure helps people navigate through it easily, as well as clearly identifying where the law differs in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We uphold the standards set out in the code by investigating complaints when things go wrong, and charities are unable to resolve issues themselves. The complaints we receive from people living in Northern Ireland represent a small proportion of our casework – less than 1% of the 1,850 complaints made to us about charitable fundraising since September 2017. Yet this does not diminish the importance of having an independent regulator to make recommendations for improvement. We make sure that the fundraising standards set out in the code are applied consistently across the UK.

Developing positive relationships

We have built strong relationships across the sector in Northern Ireland over the past five years. In part this is thanks to the work of Walter Rader OBE, who was appointed to serve as our Board Member for Northern Ireland from January 2018 and is now in his second three-year term, and Joanne McDowell, our Northern Ireland Manager, who was contracted in September 2019. By having a Board member on the ground as well as a team member, we are able to remain well informed on relevant developments, and are better positioned to raise awareness of our role, functions and the resources we have developed to support the fundraising community.

It is evident that those working in the sector across Northern Ireland have confidence in our regulation. Frances McCandless, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, recently shared her reflections with us: The Fundraising Regulator provides an important mechanism to build public trust and confidence in charities. As its presence has grown in Northern Ireland, it has become an essential source of standards, information and assurance for charities and the public.” I’m delighted by such positive remarks and we are committed to continuing our work to engage with organisations across Northern Ireland to support fundraising good practice.

Demonstrating support for the standards

The greatest testament to our regulation, is the growing number of organisations that are committing to the fundraising standards by registering with us. Upon registration, organisations can display the Fundraising Badge, which demonstrates to members of the public that they are committed to fundraising in a way that is legal, honest, open and respectful.

In March 2018, we opened up our registration scheme to charities based in Northern Ireland with an annual fundraising spend below £100,000, the threshold for inclusion in the fundraising levy. Today there are around 2,760 smaller organisations registered with us in total, and 124 of those are based in Northern Ireland alongside the 26 levy-paying charities.

The Fundraising Regulator is now an established part of the fundraising landscape in Northern Ireland, and we will continue to work alongside the sector to deliver proportionate and effective regulation. Although the past year has presented significant challenges for fundraising organisations across the UK, we’ve seen ongoing commitment from fundraisers to adapt well to doing things differently whilst public contact was limited by the pandemic. In the months ahead, we will keep our guidance and resources updated so that the sector is equipped to deal with any challenges that may lie ahead. We look forward to engaging with organisations as we plan for the future, including developing our strategy for 2022 onwards.

If you would like any further information about the Fundraising Regulator, please get in touch with our Northern Ireland Manager Joanne at [email protected].

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.
sandra.bailie@nicva.org's picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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