Guest post: What’s next for fundraising regulation in Northern Ireland?

This is the second in a series of blogs as the Fundraising Regulator develops its work with charities and the public in Northern Ireland. In this one Gerald Oppenheim, Head of Policy and Communications gives us an update on what's next. 

NI Board member appointed

First of all, we are really pleased to have recruited a board member to represent Northern Ireland at our board table from a strong field of applicants who we thank for their interest. The recruitment panel of board members appointed Walter Rader to serve for 3 years from January 2018 and will attend his first Board meeting on 25 January. He will also join one of the board’s committees in due course. Many charities will know Walter well from his time as the Big Lottery Fund’s Director in Northern Ireland, as a member of the Charity Commission when it was set up and his other wide regulatory experience.

Contacting organisations about the levy

Following discussions with NICVA and the Charity Commission, we have now started the process of assessing which charities in Northern Ireland will be included in the levy which provides the Regulator’s operating costs. We are following the same process as in 2016 when we got in touch with charities in England and Wales to establish contact details. In Northern Ireland this means that the 67 charities with an annual income of more than £1m are being contacted by phone to make sure we have the right details for the Chief Executive. We know that probably not all 67 will be included in the levy. This will be established by their self-certification of annual fundraising spend. Once that has been completed we expect to send out formal letters to those charities in the levy during January followed by invoices for the 2017-18 levy year (which began on 1 September). Charities paying the levy are automatically registered with us and appear on our on-line public register.  For all other charities not included in the levy there will be the opportunity to register with the Fundraising Regulator from February, as a way of showing their support for the Code of Fundraising Practice and The Fundraising Promise.

Fundraising preference service

Then in March we intend to launch the Fundraising Preference Service in Northern Ireland. We are pleased by the trouble-free way it has operated in England and Wales since its launch on 6 July 2017. We are also encouraged by the support charities have shown for FPS and the constructive help they have given us as we reviewed its operation in the early months. Up to the end of November, over 5000 members of the public had used the FPS, making 12,800 suppressions of direct marketing. About 20% of the suppressions were on behalf of another person, meaning those people were in all likelihood vulnerable in some way. If FPS does nothing else it is an important resource to support people in vulnerable circumstances who receive unwanted direct marketing from charities.

Code of Fundraising Practice

I know from some one-to-one conversations with charities when I was in Belfast at the Institute of Fundraising’s conference in November, that there is a lot of support for making sure that fundraising is carried out to excellent standards.

There will be a couple of consultations during 2018 to develop the Code. The first, a relatively short one starting in January and running for about 6 weeks, will be to make some changes charities have asked to make to change section 1.6 on complaints procedures.  We will also consult on some important changes to section 9.3 to make sure that the increasing use of on-line fundraising platforms by charities and the public is properly reflected in the Code. We are working with the main fundraising platforms to make sure the Code is relevant for them as well.

The second consultation, a little later in 2018, will be on our proposals to re-structure the Code to make it more accessible and easier to use.

We will write blogs during next year as we roll out the levy, open registration generally to charities, launch the FPS to explain in more detail how it works and consult on changes to the Code.

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