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Charities could face fund-raising ban for breaking rules, review says

Charities could be banned from certain forms of fund-raising, such as cold-calling or mailshots, if they break stricter rules proposed for the sector.

A government-commissioned review also recommended the creation of a new register to allow people to opt out of all charity contact.

It follows concerns about aggressive fund-raising tactics by some charities, particularly targeting the vulnerable.

It also said the main fund-raising regulator should be scrapped.

Sir Stuart Etherington, from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, who led the review, said the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) “really doesn’t have the clout or the sanctions” to prevent bad practice.

He added: “We have to make sure that we restore public confidence in charity.

“Not all charities behaved in this manner, indeed I suspect it was very few, but we’ve got to tackle those problems, otherwise I think the charity brand, if you like, will be damaged.”

The FRSB agreed some reform was needed, but said “a revamped FRSB, properly resourced, would be the most viable and cost-effective way of moving forward”.

‘Name and shame’

At present, the FRSB regulates standards set by fund-raisers themselves, but the review found this was an “inappropriate arrangement”.

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Among the report’s recommendations:

  • A new regulator, provisionally called the Fund-raising Regulator, would have control over the rules
  • It would be funded by a levy on charities themselves, and all charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fund-raising – about 2,000 organisations – would be expected to contribute
  • It would report to a parliamentary committee
  • The creation of a new “fund-raising preference service”, overseen by the new regulator, would act as a reset button for those unhappy with the number of charities contacting them
  • Donors would give their preferences to one body and de-selected charities would be obliged to stop calling and mailing
  • Charities seriously or persistently breaching the rules would be named and shamed and could be forced to halt specific methods of fund-raising until problems were resolved

Sir Stuart said of the new regulator: “It will be able to say to charities, ‘That fund-raising method that you’re using, you’re using inappropriately and we’re going to stop you using that for a while.’”

Charities could then have to submit future fund-raising plans to the regulator before being allowed to recommence their activities.

The regulator could also order compulsory training for fund-raisers who have not adhered to the rules, for example by failing to follow correct procedure when dealing with vulnerable people.

Two other existing regulators, the Institute of Fundraising and Public Fundraising Association, would merge and continue to monitor aspects of on-street and door-to-door fund-raising, but the new overarching regulator would ultimately be responsible for all forms of fund-raising.

Sold on

The death of the UK’s longest-serving poppy seller Olive Cooke put the issue of charity fund-raising under the spotlight earlier this year.

An inquest found Mrs Cooke, who was 92 and from Bristol, had received 267 charity letters in one month.

It led to suggestions that the hounding for money had pushed her to take her own life, although her family insist the charities were not to blame.

Earlier this month, it was alleged that an 87-year-old dementia patient’s personal details were sold or passed on by charities up to 200 times.

Samuel Rae’s son, Christopher, told the BBC: “I have heard some of the platitudes, but actions speak louder than words.

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“I think they’ve got a long way to go before they step back over the line we all thought they were behind. The charities need to do more farming and less hunting.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating claims that Mr Rae was targeted by fraudsters and lost thousands of pounds after his information ended up with scammers.

Sir Stuart Etherington said Britain was a “tremendously generous country” but charities were not thinking hard enough about “what it was like to be on the receiving end of some of their fund-raising methods”.

“The reality is that most people give to charities when they are asked to, rather than spontaneously, so charities do need to ask. But they should inspire people to give, not pressure them to.”

Rob Wilson, minister for Civil Society, welcomed the “wide-ranging” report, which he said represented a “new approach to fund-raising self-regulation”. He added that he would consider it fully.

In July, the government announced that charities would be forced to draw up written agreements showing how vulnerable people would be protected from aggressive fundraising tactics, in amendments to the Charities Bill.


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