Reflections on the Fundraising Regulator’s Annual event and future opportunities for collaboration

25 Mar 2021 Shauna O'Neill    Last updated: 25 Mar 2021

Joanne McDowell, Northern Ireland Manager for the Fundraising Regulator

Joanne McDowell, Northern Ireland Manager at the Fundraising Regulator reflects on the Fundraising Regulator’s recent Annual Event and collaborative work in Northern Ireland to promote, adapt and continue to build best practice in fundraising.

The Fundraising Regulator holds a public event every year so that our stakeholders can hold us accountable for our decision making. This year's event, held 8 February 2021, took place virtually due to the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic. Moving from a physical to digital event meant that many more people across the UK could engage with us directly; nearly 1,000 people joined us live and we received over 100 questions during the interactive Q&A session.  

I'm pleased we were joined by people working in the fundraising sector in Northern Ireland and had questions about our regulatory work here. If you missed the event, you can watch a recording on our website. You can also read our Annual Review 2019/20 for more information about our impact over the past year.

At the event we were asked about registration. We reported that there are 129 Northern Ireland-based fundraising organisations that are currently registered with us (this includes charities that contribute to the Fundraising Levy). These organisations have publicly committed to following the standards in the Code of Fundraising Practice, and they can use the Fundraising Badge on their fundraising materials. Over the past year, there has been a 27% increase in the number of small charities that have voluntary registered with us. We hope that this number will grow, so that the sector builds and enhances public confidence in fundraising practice.

We were also asked about the number of complaints we receive. We reported we had no in-remit fundraising complaints about charities-registered in Northern Ireland in 2019/20, however just over 1% of complainants were resident here, making a complaint about fundraising organisations registered elsewhere in the UK. Though the proportion of complaints about fundraising in Northern Ireland is small, charities should be clear about their approach to complaints handling and continue to follow the standards.

Finally, we were asked about the recent independent review of the Funding Preference Service (FPS). We are working on responding to the recommendations for improvement made in the review and in particular we are exploring ways to reduce the cost of operating it.  We are also working to raise awareness of the FPS among people in vulnerable circumstances, their families and carers, as well as enhancing information about the service on our website.

We have recently worked with the Consumer Council Northern Ireland on FPS profile-raising initiatives, and we are continuing to engage with national publications to advertise FPS to members of the public. You may have seen the new visual identity for the FPS and animated video, which simply explains how the service works and who it can help. We are also interested in working with others across the fundraising sector to share information on the FPS through network or community publications – if your organisation could help, please get in touch with me.

Although the past year has been a challenging one for the fundraising sector as a whole, there have been positives outcomes of our work in Northern Ireland. Of key importance has been working collaboratively with the sector, and particularly with local organisations to highlight new resources such as our webinar series on the code and guidance to support best practice and learning. I’d like to thank NICVA, the Rural Community Network, CO3 and their members, as well as local councils, for their support in sharing our content. We are committed to working with partners in Northern Ireland to engage with organisations of all sizes and their trustees.

At the Fundraising Regulator, we keep our guidance under review and use the learning from our engagement work and enquiries service to identify where any new resources may be needed. Please sign up to our newsletter for regular updates, including the latest Coronavirus guidance, as we begin to exit from current restrictions.

As we continue to work in challenging circumstances, the importance of adapting, building on good practice and collaboration remain key for charities and fundraisers here in Northern Ireland, and across the UK. If you have ideas about how we could work more closely with your organisation or would like any further information about the Fundraising Regulator, please get in touch with me via [email protected].'s picture
by Shauna O'Neill

Information Officer

[email protected]

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