Jim Howe is the Fundraising Standards & Operations Manager in Concern. He was a member of the Consultative Panel on Charitable Fundraising, whose report to the Charities Regulator led to the recent publication of fundraising guidelines to protect charities and boost public trust.
Rita Davenport was quoted at the launch of the new fundraising guidelines last week: "Money isn't everything but it ranks up there with oxygen". It’s certainly true in terms of fundraising, as money is usually the critical link between so many people who want to make the world a better place, and the organisations who can.
Considering Irish charities fundraise more than €800 million every year, it was no wonder the Minister requested the Charities Regulator to establish a Consultative Panel on Charitable Fundraising. The Panel was tasked to consider sections of the Charities Act 2009 relating to cash and non-cash collections, sections empowering the Minister to make legislation governing charitable fundraising, other options for regulation of charitable fundraising such as codes of practice, and the role of the Regulator in all of this.
I don’t want to lose my audience too soon, so I’ll focus on the most topical recommendation from the June report, that there should be a measured approach to charitable fundraising which should, in the first instance, consist of guidelines produced by the Charities Regulator. So, it was welcome progress at the end of September to see the Charities Regulator publish fundraising guidelines for charities, to enable trustees to protect their charities reputations and ensure public trust and confidence in their organisations.
The Guidelines for Charitable Organisations on Fundraising from the Public (which I will now refer to as the “Fundraising Guidelines”) sets out the legal and regulatory obligations on charities, as well as the standards of fundraising practice expected by the Charities Regulator. This is the chapter and verse that the Charities Regulator will quote when assessing the fundraising standards of any charity.
The base for these guidelines was the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising which set the standard for most Irish charities back in 2008. As part of the triple lock (transparent reporting, good fundraising and governance) this latest handbook from the Regulator supports charities to actively demonstrate their standards. Dóchas members who currently abide by the Statement of Guiding Principles will know it was a worthwhile process as they read through the new Fundraising Guidelines, ticking off the boxes.
I have been asked what is new, and my honest answer is that it depends on how your trustees interpret it for your organisation. Trustees still need to ensure their charity has a publicly available Donor’s Charter committing to Respect, Honesty & Integrity and, Transparency & Accountability. In principle there is nothing particularly new, but all of us need to stop for a moment and task the most relevant and practical person to do a straightforward checklist.
The guidelines are laid out in an easy to read format and set out the responsibilities of Trustees, Fundraising Managers and Fundraisers, with lists of obligations and expectations that you can tick off or mark for action as you go along. The same process can be applied to the Data Protection sections, and Financial Transparency and Accountability.
Charities Institute Ireland (Cii) has a helpful resource for ticking those boxes here. I’d strongly suggest you also share the Cii Fundraising Codes of Good Practice; essential resource documents for different channels of fundraising that will help you meet the standards. It’s like a pick and mix solution for charities that engage in some fundraising practices, but not all. It allows you to prioritise by choosing the codes that match your own organisation’s activities.
The Charities Regulator, John Farrelly said “the trustees of each charity need to consider and decide how best to apply these guidelines to their particular circumstances… and be able to explain and justify their approach to fundraising from the public, particularly if they decide not to follow good practice as set out in these guidelines."
I remember an earlier Dóchas blog recommending to “try to stay out of the news where possible” when bad charity practice was in the media. My recommendation on the Fundraising Guidelines is to make sure your trustees get a copy now, as they will be the first to be asked questions by the Charities Regulator. If your organisation is implementing the guidelines you’ll be supported. If not, you may feel quite alone.