Charity marketing is to undergo its biggest shake-up in nearly a decade following the furore surrounding aggressive fundraising methods in a move which will trigger the demise of the Fundraising Standards Board.
The FRSB was set up in February 2007 just months after the Charities Act 2006 was passed, and the self-regulatory body was tasked with overseeing charity fundraising in line with industry standards.
However, following the suicide of Britain’s longest serving poppy seller, Oilve Cooke, the sector has come under intense scrutiny from the media, with horror story after horror story emerging about fundraising methods and data sharing practices.
The Information Commissioner Office has already ruled that charities must check their existing donor databases against the Telephone Preference Service every time they embark on a telemarketing campaign or risk falling foul of the Privacy in Electronic Communications Regulations and fines of up to £500,000. However, this was tempered just last week when Commissioner Christopher Graham warned against a charity witch-hunt.
Now, in a effort to pre-empt even tougher legislation, the Institute of Fundraising has appointed a new chair of its standards committee – immigration services commissioner Suzanne McCarthy – who will be joined by three other lay members to run a new, as yet unnamed, watchdog.
It has already pledged to move to an opt-in regime for collecting donor data, banning charities from passing on data to other organisations without explicit consent.
IoF chairman Richard Taylor says the regulator will sit within the Charity Commission – and be funded by a levy on charities – and be given the power to fine miscreants. Much like the Advertising Standards Authority, the FRSB could only name and shame charities with poor standards.
The decision is not totally unexpected; only last month Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross called for his organisation to take over the role of the FRSB.
And it comes as the bosses of 17 of the UK’s largest charities – including British Red Cross, the NSPCC, Oxfam, Macmillan Cancer Care, Royal British Legion, RNLI and Save the Children and Cancer Research UK – issued a statement apologising for failing to live up to the “high standards” expected by the public.
The statement said: “No-one should ever feel pressured into giving. The vulnerable should always receive the strongest protection. And we need to act quickly and decisively when any fundraising practice is found wanting.”
The future of the FRSB’s newly appointed chairman – former chief executive of the Charity Commission Andrew Hind, who was due to succeed Colin Lloyd – is not known.
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