Improving Standards Through Self-Regulation

10 september 2015

Dr Sue-Anne Wallace, Vice-President of the International Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative, and Chair of the Australian Council for International Development Code of Conduct, gives an overview of research she recently conducted to investigate self-regulatory codes of conduct and complaints handling in the not-for-profit sector.

There is much evidence to show that self-regulatory systems, even without verification or certification, lift standards overall in the charitable sector. Such systems require sector buy-in. In recent research in the US, UK, Ireland and Europe, I found that the collective influence of peak and sub-sector bodies that work collaboratively, and with regulators, is the most important factor in developing cost-effective self-regulation that is flexible, responsive and proportional to risk. Overall I found variability in the strength of reporting against various codes and often a lack of emphasis on verification, except among peak bodies for agencies engaged in international humanitarian and development which tend to have more focussed self-regulatory requirements than do other charitable bodies.

Of all the activities undertaken by charities, fundraising seems to raise the most public complaints. Therefore consideration should be given as to how best to verify compliance with self-regulation of fundraising, noting that complaints handling is a risk management strategy.

I found it would be useful to develop a business case to show the link between governance and performance, and the cost benefit of improved standards, and to demonstrate impact, in order to convince donors and funders of the value of compliance wth self-regulatory codes and to persuade them to use this as a tool for due diligence.

For more information visit or to contact Dr. Wallace visit: