A former director of the Institute of Fundraising has launched a scathing attack on plans to scrap the Fundraising Standards Board, branding the timing of the move an “ill-judged and incompetently handled” distraction.
Stephen Lee, who was a director of the IoF for 11 years and is now a lecturer in voluntary sector management at Cass Business School, claims the move was a cynical act designed to pre-empt major criticism of the sector’s biggest marketing miscreants in front of the Parliamentary Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.
When the heads of Oxfam, the NSPCC, Save the Children and the RSPCA actually appeared, they laid the blame on their sloppy actions firmly and squarely with their marketing agencies.
Writing in Third Sector magazine, Lee said: “A casual reading of the article might promote a positive response – 17 representatives of large fundraising institutions arguing for more effective regulation of fundraising practice is surely a good thing, isn’t it?
“But a more reflective analysis of the content, purpose and execution of the letter reveals the magnificent incompetence that it actually represents.”
He goes on to argue that “the last place any sane person would want to locate [a new] regulator is within the Charity Commission.
“The commission’s own commitment to and track record on the regulation of fundraising is poor, as witnessed by its failure to support implementation of the public charitable collections provisions of the Charities Acts 1993 and 2006.”
Lee points out that extending the Charity Commission’s remit would be wrong, not least because regulators addressing other sector domains would be affected by such a move.
He added: “Fundraising occurs in numerous different contexts outside the charity domain. Restricting the scope of regulation in such a manner would do little or nothing to address the core concerns of the public and those of proficient fundraisers.”
Lee continued: “Why has the IoF aligned itself so strongly to the very organisations that have led us to this nadir of fundraising practice?”
However, Lee agrees that the sector does need a strong, independent regulator spanning all facets of fundraising practice, but believes the Charities Acts of 1992, 1993 and 2006 set an effective and workable precedent for the scope of such regulation.
Pointing to the Advertising Standards Authority model, he called for a 0.1% levy on Gift Aid, adding: “Before the major charities claim foul in the name of capturing donor monies (as they did the last time it was proposed), let’s reflect that this is not donors’ money – it’s money that accrues as the product of a tax concession.”
He concluded: “There is no reason why these aims could not be achieved by a revised term of reference for the FRSB. It is a good brand that suffers simply through limitation of scope and lack of resources.”
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