Update on fundraising self-regulation in Scotland plus a look at setting up a new NI Fundraising Regulator

Scottish Fundraising Complaints Website

This article looks at how Scotland partially eschewed the Fundraising Regulator in favour of its own system & looks at another NI option: setting up a NI Fundraising Regulator.

The "Scottish Review"

In addition to the Cross-Party (Etherington) Review, a separate Scottish Review on fundraising self-regulation was carried out in August 2015. A Scottish Fundraising Working Group was formed and an options appraisal developed. They engaged with the Scottish voluntary sector, gathering views through a consultation and various meetings. The Working Group presented three potential options for the future of charity fundraising in Scotland in its consultation:

  1. Adopting the Fundraising Regulator as an intermediary between the public and charities.
  2. Setting up a new Scottish Fundraising Regulator as an intermediary.
  3. No intermediary: charities in Scotland and OSCR take on an enhanced role in regulating fundraising.

The consultation identified resounding support for option three. The Working Group's Final Report therefore recommended it to the Scottish Government as the model that should be followed.  

An Implementation Group including a cross-section of representatives from the Scottish voluntary sector was then set up to implement the Scottish recommendations.

Update on fundraising self-regulation in Scotland

Charities based in Scotland have now opted out of joining the new Fundraising Regulator and have committed to a new Scottish system of self-regulation for fundraising from July 2016.  This new system aims to deliver more robust fundraising self-regulation across the entire voluntary sector in Scotland: a sector with 23,800 registered charities regulated by OSCR, a turnover of £4.5 billion a year and 138,000 people employed in over 45,000 organisations.  

ALL Scottish charities, i.e. those registered in Scotland with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) are now regulated by the new Scottish system of fundraising self-regulation.  

The regulation of cross-border charities  uses a "lead regulator" model. This recognises that charities operating in Scotland but registered in England and Wales are answerable to the Fundraising Regulator, which replaced the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) on 7 July 2016. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Fundraising Regulator and OSCR is now in place.  In practice, this means that some organisations fundraising in Scotland are subject to the Scottish system of self-regulation, whilst others are subject to the Fundraising Regulator. 

A new Scottish Fundraising Complaints website and free phone line (0808 164 2520) have now been established by SCVO and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) as a key tool in helping to maintain trust and confidence in Scotland’s fundraising charities.  The new complaints hub is seen as an important element of a new, enhanced, model for charity fundraising regulation in Scotland which will see more responsibility placed on charities and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), to encourage good practice.

An Independent Panel of volunteers, which includes members of the public, donors, charities and fundraisers is now in place to hear Stage 3 Fundraising complaints.  However, before anyone can take a fundraising complaint to the Panel they will have to ensure that they have given the charity involved a chance to respond.  In the first instance, i.e. Stage 1, a complainant is referred back to the charity by the Scottish Fundraising Complaints Helpline.  If the complaint is not resolved at this stage, the complainant moves onto Stage 2 which involves a referral back to the trustees of the charity.  If the complainant remains dissatisfied after Stage 2, they may then refer their complaint to the Independent Panel.

OSCR will only usually become involved in a fundraising complaint where there are concerns about:

  • A breach of charity trustee duties, including potential mismanagement or misconduct by the charity’s trustees
  • A risk to public trust and confidence in the charity or the wider sector
  • A risk to charitable assets

Under the new Scottish system former FRSB members are not entitled to use the “2 ticks” logo publically signalling their commitment to fundraising high standards. However a new “fundraising guarantee” scheme for Scottish charities has been developed to replace this.

A review of all aspects of how the new fundraising self-regulation system is working in Scotland will take place after its first year finishes in July 2017.

Martin Sime, Chief Executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, stated that: “This new phone and email service will make it easier for members of the public to complain about charity fundraising by helping them find the right place to raise their fundraising complaint and get it resolved. It coincides with the launch of a whole new chapter in the story of fundraising standards and the need for our sector to nurture public trust and confidence in what we do." 

OSCR’s Chief Executive, David Robb, said:

“Donors and charities have a shared interest in sustainable, ethical fundraising practices. We are pleased to have contributed to the new partnership approach that reflects the views of the sector in Scotland, and welcome today’s announcement of the new complaints hub and dedicated telephone number. We will continue to support the developing arrangements for Scotland and while our experience is that charities generally raise funds responsibly, this new framework will support the public’s continuing confidence in charities and their vital work.”

The option of involving a statutory regulator such as OSCR or CCNI in what all agree should remain a purely voluntary regulatory system obviously has inherent problems.  OSCR’s role in the new Scottish system of voluntary fundraising self-regulation is clearly one of advice and support and Its key role, i.e. that of a statutory regulator remains unchanged:  it will continue to step in formally only where fundraising complaints are serious enough to merit statutory intervention.

Setting up a NI Fundraising Regulator - is this a viable option?

An option currently being considered by the NI voluntary sector is that of  as an intermediary body, either as an entirely new organisation or within an existing organisation.

The Scottish voluntary sector quickly discarded this option.  In the interests of informing the debate here in Northern Ireland, it is worth looking at their reasons and whether these reasons also exist in the context of Northern Ireland.

Potential issues with this option identified by the Scottish voluntary sector were:

  • Confusion for the public due to the existence of two Fundraising Regulators with different remits.
  • The cost and inefficiency of having two similar bodies, and whether there was sufficient work for a purely Scottish Fundraising Regulator to justify this.
  • The potential for it being seen as a Scottish solution for the sake of it being Scottish.
  • This option involved the most significant change, particularly for UK-wide charities.

The potential disproportionate cost of this option and potential confusion for the public appear to apply equally to this option for both Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

It is also not clear that, the fundraising landscape in Northern Ireland is sufficiently different to the rest of the UK that it would justify the resources involved in setting up of a second new Fundraising Regulator.   

Finally, the low number of complaints expected in Northern Ireland, i.e. 5 a year, coupled with the expense of setting up, and maintaining, an entirely new Fundraising Regulator for NI, make this response disproportionate to the scale of the problem it is intended to address.

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