by Jasper Joyce, Consultant at Aleron
It has been a turbulent twelve months for charity fundraising. Across the UK fundraising sector as a whole, several examples of poor fundraising practice have been exposed, and there has been much debate about what constitutes acceptable fundraising activity. Following this prolonged wave of significant public, media and political attention, The Charity Commission published Charity Fundraising: a guide to trustee duties (CC20). CC20 was published in the context of two particularly pertinent formal reviews. Charitable fundraisers must understand in full the implications of both:
- The review of fundraising self-regulation, conducted by Sir Stuart Etherington; and
- The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into fundraising practices in the charitable sector
These reviews drew a number of important conclusions about the most important steps for rebuilding and reinforcing public trust in charitable fundraising. They stressed the importance of trustees understanding and overseeing responsible fundraising practices. They also outlined the sector’s need for a new regulatory body, The Fundraising Regulator. The new regulator will combine the roles and responsibilities held previously by multiple organisations to set, promote and police the standards of fundraising practice across the sector. Both of the reports demonstrated the case for donor representation on the board of the new regulatory body, and encouraged individual charity boards to engage more closely with their donors when understanding the impact of their own fundraising practices.
Now, more than ever, compliance and good practice must be prioritised, and trustees and senior executives will be expected to understand the changes and quickly adapt. However, ambitious income targets must also be achieved to help tackle a growing social need, all amidst an ever more challenging environment for fundraisers. Many fundraisers are asking themselves: How do we maximise the Lifetime Value of our supporters when there are so many restrictions on engaging with them?
In the context of these sector-wide developments, charities are adapting to ensure that fundraising practices consistently meet the highest standards, and reflect their values. Many charities are making significant internal changes to adjust to updated requirements. Through our recent work we have observed a wide range of responses to this challenge. There are at least 7 popular options that many charities are actively considering or implementing:
- Pausing certain fundraising activities and conducting root and branch reviews of how fundraising is conducted
- Improving internal fundraising training and monitoring
- Ensuring greater oversight of suppliers carrying out fundraising on a charity’s behalf
- Employing professional compliance managers to ensure that charities are complying with the necessary codes and best practices
- Ensuring greater involvement and training of Trustees on fundraising decisions
- Introducing new supporter or donor charters
- Moving towards ‘opt-in’ only models where consent is required if a contact is to be asked to donate
There may be a perception, in some pockets of the sector, that stringent adherence to regulations and codes of practice will prevent the achievement of ambitious fundraising targets. However, by adopting the long-term, strategic view that setting the highest standards for fundraising is central to supporter satisfaction and loyalty, all charities can establish themselves as both compliant and successful fundraisers. For example, compliance is not at odds with the strategic use of donor data to plan engagements with supporters and maximise their contribution to charitable objectives.
Ultimately, bringing in the necessary funding that is needed to achieve any charity’s mission will require organisations to balance an inbuilt respect for regulation with continuous innovation of strategy.