Fundraising Regulator Steps Up a Gear

Your charity may have received a letter from the Fundraising Regulator asking it to pay a fundraising levy.

Although described as “voluntary”, it seems to be the expectation that all charities will pay this. By paying the levy, a charity will fall under the jurisdiction of the Fundraising Regulator. This brings with it further obligations and commitments as outlined in this article.

What is the Fundraising Regulator?
The Fundraising Regulator was established in July 2016 in response to public and media concern over certain fundraising tactics used by some charities (e.g. excessive calling and hassling for donations). It’s the new, independent regulator of charitable fundraising, and it aims to strengthen the system of charity regulation and restore public trust. It will promote standards for fundraising practice and has set out a “fundraising code” which charities are expected to comply with.

It has the power to investigate charities in breach of fundraising “best practice”, adjudicate complaints from the public and “take proportional remedial action” (this is in addition to the powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to fine charities for breaches of data protection law). It will also establish a fundraising preference service (like the telephone and mail preference service). This service is currently in the development phase.

What Does Paying the Levy Mean?
The Fundraising Regulator’s levy is an annual fee collected from charities in England and Wales that spend £100,000 or more a year on generating voluntary income. The amount due is based on this annual spend, with ten bands ranging from £150-£15,000. The fee collected should remain static for three years, but then may change.

By paying the levy, a charity gains access to the “Fundraising Regulator’s Registration Pack”, which is in effect, all of the various forms of the “FR Registered With” Badge. It will also receive a password and unique registration number.

The Badge brings with it a commitment to the Fundraising Promise, the Regulators Terms and Conditions and a Code of Practice.

The Fundraising Promise
Charities that have registered with the FR make a promise and commitment to donors that they will ensure that their fundraising is legal, open, honest and respectful. In particular, the charity will commit to high standards and be:

  • clear, honest and open
  • respectful
  • fair and reasonable
  • accountable and responsible,

all further outlined in the easy-to-read two-page document.

The Terms and Conditions
In brief, the terms and conditions (a ten-page document) require that when fundraising, the charity will:

  • do so in accordance with the Fundraising Promise and such of the Code as applies to the fundraising methods used;
  • promote the Fundraising Promise (including, if the charity has a website, reproducing the Fundraising Promise on it);
  • include on its Fundraising Materials the Registration Badge (unless it is impractical to do so);
  • have in place a complaints procedure that complies with the requirements of the Fundraising Regulator, namely it:
    – is in writing and can be made available on request and/or is set out on the charity’s website;
    – explains how a complaint can be made;
    – requires the charity to keep records of complaints (which must be available for inspection by the FR if required);
    – contains a commitment to investigate a complaint in a reasonable timescale and advise the complainant of the outcome within 28 days, or that they can take it to the FR if not happy.

The charity will provide the FR with copies of fundraising materials if requested and cooperate if a complaint is referred.

The Terms and Conditions continue to detail what happens if a complaint is referred to the FR and what steps the FR can require a charity to take, from issuing a private apology, referring it to the Charities Commission or elsewhere and terminating registration with the FR.

The Terms and Conditions then set out the support that the FR provides, including guidance regarding “good fundraising practice and complaints management”.

The charity will use the Badge as stipulated. The charity agrees to pay the annual fundraising levy.

Code of Fundraising Practice
This outlines (over 76 pages) the standards expected of all charitable fundraising organisations across the UK. Overall, the conduct of all fundraising organisations must be legal, open, honest and respectful. The Code is divided into sections, not all of which will be relevant to each organisation, so areas can be read as they will apply to each charity’s fundraising practices. It is recommended that fundraising staff familiarise themselves with this Code and put into practice any requirements/recommendations if not already
doing so.

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