Northern Ireland, the Fundraising Regulator and the Code of Fundraising Practice...

2 Aug 2018 Lynn Kennedy    Last updated: 5 Oct 2018

Since 2017 fundraising in NI has come under the remit of the Fundraising Regulator and its Code of Fundraising Practice and associated Rulebooks. This article looks at what this means in practice.
Fundraising Ethics

What is the Fundraising Regulator?

The Fundraising Regulator is the independent regulator of charitable fundraising. It was set up following a cross-party review of fundraising self-regulation to strengthen the system of charity regulation and restore public trust in fundraising after the media furore of 2015 and research showing that public trust in charities was at an all-time low. 

Does it apply to your organisation?

In 2017 the NI voluntary sector, after a 9-month consultation exercise, chose to be governed by the existing Fundraising Regulator rather than set up its own, home-grown fundraising regulation system. Northern Ireland is now also represented on the Board of the new Fundraising Regulator in the form of Walter Rader, well known to many here from his time as the Big Lottery Fund’s NI Director and his work in helping set up the Charity Commission.

The Fundraising regulator now regulates all fundraising by or on behalf of* charitable, philanthropic and benevolent organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including:

  • charities registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland;
  • exempt charities; and
  • other organisations with entirely or predominantly charitable, philanthropic and benevolent objectives, and
    • open membership (if there are members),
    • a not-for-profit structure, or
    • an acceptable dissolution clause (in the event that the charity ceases to operate, that any remaining assets go to a charity with similar charitable objects).
  • agencies and other organisations employed by charities to raise funds for them.

NB Where fundraising is carried out in aid of an organisation, but without the organisations permission , they will assess on a case-by-case basis whether any responsibility can reasonably be assigned to the charity in respect of the activity concerned.

What is its role?

Its role is to stand up for best practice in fundraising, in order to protect donors and support the vital work of fundraisers.  It works in partnership with other regulators and the representative bodies in the charitable and fundraising sectors to build public confidence and ensure consistent fundraising standards across the UK.

It does this through:

  • setting and promoting the standards for fundraising (in the Code of Fundraising Practice and associated Rulebooks) in consultation with the public, fundraising stakeholders and legislators;
  • investigating complaints from the public about fundraising, where these cannot be resolved by the charities themselves;
  • investigating fundraising that has caused significant public concern;
  • enabling people to manage their contact with charities using their Fundraising Preference Service, and
  • publishing a public directory of all organisations who have registered with them to demonstrate their commitment to best practice fundraising.

To find out more about how complaints can be made and how they are handled click here

Is there a cost for your organisation?

The Fundraising Regulator is funded through a voluntary levy on charities SPENDING £100,000 or more each year ON FUNDRAISING.   

The number of charities in Northern Ireland liable to pay the levy is very low in comparison to the 2000 charities in England and Wales: current rough estimates are that there are only around 20 charities in NI which are expected to pay any levy.

However, the Fundraising Regulator also invites charities spending less than £100,000 a year on fundraising to register with it – for an annual fee of £50.  This allows organisations to publicly demonstrate their commitment to ethical fundraising. Non-charities, commercial fundraising businesses and Community Interest Companies (CICs) can also register.   

To view the Directory of registered organisations click here

What is the Fundraising Preference Service?

The Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) was launched in July 2017 and is operated by the Fundraising Regulator. For the public it works in a similar way to the Telephone and Mail preference services, as it allows them to control the nature and frequency of direct marketing communications that they receive from fundraising organisations.  The development of the service was a key requirement in the development of the new Fundraising Regulator.  March 2018 saw the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) in Northern Ireland. 

People can choose to stop receiving emails, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages from a selected charity or charities.  Any charitable organisation, higher education institution, museum or gallery can be identified on the Fundraising Preference Service.  20% of the suppressions so far have been made on behalf of other people:  this demonstrates that it may at least be an invaluable resource in protecting the more vulnerable from unwanted direct marketing from charities.

What is the Code of Fundraising Practice?

The Code of Fundraising Practice and its associated Rulebooks, i.e. Private Site Fundraising Rulebook, Street Fundraising Rulebook, and Door-to-Door Fundraising Rulebook outline the standards expected of all charitable fundraising organisations across the UK.  

The Code and the Rulebooks were initially by developed by the fundraising community through the work of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and Public Fundraising Association (PFRA).  They were formally transferred from the IoF to the Fundraising Regulator at its launch on 7th July 2016. Recommendations on changes to the Code are made by the Fundraising Regulator’s Standards Committee in consultation with fundraising stakeholders. Decisions to change the code are subject to approval by the Fundraising Regulator’s Board

What does the Code cover?

The Code aims to cover ALL fundraising activities and has 20 different sections (as listed below)

How do I implement the Code?

At first glance, the Code can seem a little daunting.  However, I would recommend following the old adage, “eat the elephant one bite at a time”.  Following the Code and continuing to commit to good practice in fundraising is far and away the best means of ensuring that public confidence remains at the extremely high level evidenced in the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland’s Public Trust and Confidence in Charities 2016 research.  

All organisations need to read Sections 1 and 2 to get an overview of the key principles and behaviours in fundraising and to get an understanding of how best to work with volunteers when fundraising.  The 4 Key Principles are those to which the vast majority of NI fundraisers already adhere, i.e. their fundraising is Legal, Open, Honest and Respectful.  Having read these 2 sections, the Code is then probably best accessed through its individual sections (as listed above). Not all types of fundraising activities are carried out by all organisations.  For this reason, you can simply check the relevant section of the Code each time you plan a fundraising activity.  This will ensure that everything you do within this particular activity is then in keeping with the principles and ethics laid down in the Code.

Example of using the Code in practice

If we look at the simply activity of applying for grants, we can see that complying with the Code is equally simple.

When applying for grants from Trust and Foundations, following Section 10 simply means that you need to –

  • Avoid mass mailings unless there are exceptional circumstances, e.g. a national disaster or emergency.
  • Obtain permission of referees and let them see the application before submitting it.
  • Make sure that all applications fit within your organisation’s own objectives, i.e. that your governing document actually allows you to carry out the work within your application.

Follow this and you will be entirely compliant with the Code when you apply for any grant from a Trust or Foundation.

Once successful in securing your grant (!), you then simply need to check Section 10 again and remain compliant through actioning the clauses relating to managing your grant, etc.

What do the Rulebooks Cover?

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by Lynn Kennedy

Fundraising Advice Officer

[email protected]

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