There are growing calls for the new Fundraising Regulator – which replaced the Fundraising Standards Board at the end of 2016 – to be merged with the Advertising Standards Authority, amid claims that it was “ill-conceived” from the start and is far too expensive to run.
Stephen Pidgeon, one of the UK’s most highly respected charity marketing specialists and a trustee of the watchdog, is the latest to demand a rethink, saying that that merger talks could “start immediately”.
His call follows similar claims by Professor Adrian Sargeant, a director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at the University of Plymouth, who recently argued that the Fundraising Regulator’s case load – of about 800 complaints a year – calls into question the need for a separate body.
Sargeant reckoned that only 50 of the 800 complaints would require investigation, with just a handful needing adjudication.
The 800 complaints, at the regulator’s own estimated operating budget of between £2m and £2.5m a year, gives a potential cost of £3,125 per complaint. By comparison, the ASA handles about 30,000 complaints a year at a cost of just £263 each.
In a blog post on Third Sector, Pidgeon writes: “Many trustees, like me, question the costs required to run such a body. Can this regulator ever be good value for money – donors’ money?
“The ASA regulates every other piece of marketing in the UK, including charity marketing. Through a small levy on all their advertising or direct marketing costs, charities are already funding it. And the quality of its judgments is the envy of the world.”
While Pidgeon concedes that Fundraising Regulator executives have produced a system that “could actually work”, he insists it is “ludicrously expensive”, adding: “As a trustee, I would be tempted not to pay the regulator’s fees. It is such bad value for money. It was ill-conceived and a better solution, available at the time, was less than a 30th of the cost. It is still not too late: merger discussions with the ASA could start immediately.”
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