NEWS: Listening to fundraisers to make regulation work

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.25.15

Rogare advisory panel members Amanda Shepard and Adrian Salmon report on the meeting we co-hosted with nfpSynergy this month to discuss fundraising regulation.

Rogare began to capture fundraisers’ opinions on the proposed new regulatory regime in early November, when 524 fundraisers completed our fundraising regulation survey.

But there simply haven’t been enough opportunities for practitioners to take part in the debate, to ask questions and to contribute their expertise to those leading the process.

So Rogare and nfpSynergy co-hosted an open event on Tuesday 15 December with just one aim: giving fundraisers from charities big and small an opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the incoming waves of tighter fundraising regulation. We wanted to make sure practitioners could have their voices heard, share their knowledge, and explore both their concerns and potential solutions. It was a lively and interesting afternoon.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.40.19

There was a genuine sense that this is a big opportunity to educate the public around modern charities, what they actually do and how they’re funded; an opportunity to educate and work with trustees, chief executives and directors on building sustainable, long-term fundraising programmes; and that a single, independent regulator would force charities to deal with such bad practice and lazy fundraising as might exist (although the lack of scrutiny of the evidence in the Etherington Review process was flagged).

“There was a sense of frustration that too often one charity defends its practice in relation to another. It’s no longer good enough to say you don’t like or don’t do a form of fundraising so it doesn’t concern you – to allow ourselves to be pitted one against another.”

But many were concerned that the process so far has felt far from transparent and the tight timetable had limited consultation. Understanding that change is inevitable, fundraisers want opportunities to constructively contribute to how the new regulatory regime takes shape. They want to seek clarification and suggest solutions as they prepare their own charities not just for the implementation of the Fundraising Review, but also the recent and future changes to the code of practice, the new ICO enforcement of the TPS and MPS, and the new EU data regulation with revised definition of ‘consent’ due in 2017/18.

Many felt that while rebalancing fundraising with the donor in mind was needed to restore public trust, the voice of the beneficiary had been entirely missing from the process when ultimately it is beneficiaries and services that will suffer.

Several further points came out of the discussions:

What would be classified as fundraising?

How does it apply in the heritage and arts and cultural sectors? What about universities and schools that are charities and exempt status organisations like hospitals? We assume non charity organisations that fundraise like Greenpeace will be affected but we don’t know. And what about small charities that do fundraise from individuals and the newer forms of fundraising like crowdfunding?

The proposed Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) is a serious concern

Joe Saxton at nfpSynergy has already set out 20 challenges confronting the FPS. Rogare’s own advisory panel member Joe Jenkins looked at a ‘Workable FPS’ earlier this month.

At this event, fundraisers were debating whether working on the ‘last resort reset button’ to protect the vulnerable as originally envisaged could be the best and most achievable course of action (leaving aside for now at language of the Etherington report – reiterated at the 4 December summit that describes FPS as a mechanism protecting everyone’s ‘right to be left alone’?)

“Many felt that while rebalancing fundraising with the donor in mind was needed to restore public trust, the voice of the beneficiary had been entirely missing from the process when ultimately it is beneficiaries and services that will suffer.”

If the FPS is going to be a success it must be simple for donors and the public to use and simple to operate in all charities.

But will it differentiate between ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ approaches, how will existing donors be treated, what choice over charities and channels will it offer and as a service for individuals, how will it interact with the MPS and the FPS which operate at a household level? Something this complex needs to be carefully navigated and will take time and resource to develop as well as properly implement. The risk if it’s rushed, underfunded or attempts to handle too many exceptions, is that the FPS just won’t work.

This leads to the third issue­…

Unintended consequences and cost

Many fundraisers said their charities were working individually and/or in consortia to work out the financial impact of new fundraising regulation. In the short to medium term, unintended consequences could see charities switch investment to forms of fundraising not or less affected by the regulation and ironically often more costly and less effective e.g. inserts, door drops and even events.

The new regulatory regime will make fundraising much less cost effective than in the previous one. Charities are looking at the impact of that on beneficiaries and services on the assumption that replacement funding will be difficult if not impossible to find. For larger charities income could drop by as much as 20 per cent within five years (see Adrian Sargeant’s Third Sector blog). In smaller charities, the cumulative costs of implementing new regulation, and restricted and more costly fundraising, could mean merger or closure.

New EU data protection rules

For many, the draft new EU data protection rules due to come into force in 2017/18, which are likely to include a requirement for opt-in consent on all channels, seem an even greater challenge. If a donation is not considered ‘consent’, then there will be no way to communicate with donors and building sustainable communities of support will become almost impossible.

Work together for all fundraising

Finally, there was a real will to come together as a fundraising sector and make the case for good, ethical fundraising. There was a sense of frustration that too often one charity defends its practice in relation to another. It’s no longer good enough to say you don’t like or don’t do a form of fundraising so it doesn’t concern you – to allow ourselves to be pitted one against another. Our strength will be to work together to defend fundraising (not fundraisers) and promote the value that individual generosity brings via charities to beneficiaries.

What next and how you can help?

We still need more information to better understand the likely impact and effectively influence the whole regulatory programme. Rogare would love to hear from the whole fundraising community as well as from more fundraisers on its advisory panel. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or comments, please email us.

We will work with nfpSynergy to make sure fundraisers’ issues and the potential ways forward raised with us are raised with the new regulator, its working groups, NCVO, IoF, ACEVO and the ICO. We will ask that fundraising practitioners see the roadmap and timetable for the implementation of the new regulations and are clear how and when they can contribute their opinions, impact analysis and expertise. At Rogare, we will consider how we can practically help address regulatory issues as we make our research choices.

Change is coming. This is an opportunity to raise the profile of fundraising positively, to educate, to better engage with our true supporters. But to make better regulations that actually work for our donors and our beneficiaries we need the experts – the fundraisers in charities – to get involved, and to get involved now, before it’s too late.

  • Amanda Shepard is a fundraising and management consultant and Adrian Salmon is vice president at Grenzebach Glier and Associates. Both are members of Rogare’s Advisory Panel.
Associate Members 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.