Guest Blog by Joanne McDowell, NI Manager, Fundraising Regulator: Protecting the public and supporting the vital work of fundraisers

Joanne McDowell, NI Manager for the Fundraising Regulator

Joanne McDowell, NI Manager for the Fundraising Regulator, reflects on public fundraising resuming in Northern Ireland, and why it is so important that charities uphold the fundraising standards to maintain public trust.

The ability of charities to fundraise is vital to mitigating the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it is essential that it is carried out in a way that is legal, honest, open and respectful. This is the core aim of the Fundraising Regulator, which exists to drive public trust in fundraising, protect donors and support the vital work of fundraisers. We do this by standing up for best practice in fundraising, to create and sustain a positive donor experience, which in turn drives public confidence in donating.

The recent announcements from the Stormont Executive highlight the uncertainty of the times we are living in. It is important that charities keep up to date with official information provided by the UK Government and guidance issued by the devolved government in Northern Ireland to apply any new requirements and limitations to your fundraising. Activities must only be carried out after a comprehensive risk assessment – make sure you refer to our key principles guidance which is designed to aid good decision making and sets out a framework for safe and responsible fundraising. We are keeping this updated in line with the latest Government advice.

Fundraising should only take place when you are satisfied that this can be done safely, in line with Government advice and where the risks associated with the activities can be properly managed. It’s important that fundraisers feel confident and reassured. Cleaning practices and hand hygiene will be an important element of your safeguards. You must also fundraise in accordance with social distancing restrictions and make sure fundraiser behaviour is respectful, as some members of the public may be more anxious than usual about interacting with others.

You should also ensure you are familiar with the standards in the Code of Fundraising Practice, which sets out the responsibilities that apply to fundraising carried out by charitable institutions and third-party fundraisers in the UK. We recently published a new webinar to help charities understand how to use the code is and who it applies to. This short video is especially helpful for those new to fundraising and I encourage you to use this as part of any training your organisation offers to fundraisers.

As well as following the code, your charity can demonstrate its commitment to best practice by registering with the Fundraising Regulator. All organisations that register can display our Fundraising Badge – the logo which shows they are registered with us – on their fundraising materials and website.

To register with us, fundraising organisations with costs of more than £100,000 per year are asked to contribute to the annual Fundraising Levy. All other charities with lower fundraising costs can register for a flat fee of £50 a year. The levy funds the work we do to increase public trust in fundraising and enables us to deliver our core functions: upholding and maintaining the code, casework, investigations, running the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) and our enquiries line, as well as producing guidance for the sector and the public.

Although we know that many charities are currently facing financial challenges, it is essential that fundraising regulation remains adequately funded, so that donors continue to be protected and the reputation of fundraising organisations across Northern Ireland and the wider sector is maintained.

By learning and sharing best practice, we can protect public trust in fundraising that we have collectively worked so hard to build, which will drive confidence in donating, now and into the future.

You can get in touch with me via [email protected] if you would like any further information about the Fundraising Regulator.


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