New recommendations for fundraising regulations for Scotland have been announced, followed by the launch of a website and phone line for complaints from the public about charity fundraising practices.
In 2015, in response to increased press scrutiny of charity fundraising activities and cases of malpractice, the Etherington report was commissioned for England and Wales and a separate report for Scotland which was carried out by SCVO. Although the few cases of fundraising malpractice involve a small number of very large charities, the Etherington review found that the system of self-regulation wasn’t working and recommended that a new Fundraising Regulator should be created. The research carried out by SCVO, however, found that as public trust and confidence in charities remained high in Scotland, a UK-wide fundraising regulator was not desirable amongst the public or the sector, and not suitable or proportional to the fundraising landscape here. The recommendation here was for an enhanced system of self-regulation with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, given a greater role in fundraising oversight, along with other system changes to ensure that any issues that arise will be dealt with effectively.
In practice this will mean firstly that trustees, although they already have responsibility for the fundraising activities that their charity carries out, will be expected to be more proactive on this issue. OSCR will be producing guidance specifically on this element of trustee responsibilities to complement their current trustee guidance . To deal with any complaints from members of the public that arise, a phone line and website have been created. If a complaint is made, the charity will have an opportunity to resolve the matter. If it is not resolved to the donor’s satisfaction it will be referred to an independent panel, and if they decide it’s a charity regulatory matter the complaint will go to OSCR. Currently, the only sanction that OSCR can impose is a criminal offence, but the report also recommends new legislation to give OSCR powers for more proportional sanctions, with the creation of a charity ombudsman one possibility. A new, UK-wide set of fundraising standards will be developed – likely to be based on the existing Code of Fundraising Practice.
Community Groups (not registered as charities) – approx. 30% of voluntary organisations in Edinburgh* – are currently not subject to any regulation. Cross border charities (charities registered with the Charity Commission and OSCR)- currently only 15 charities registered in Edinburgh: If their primary location is England, Wales or NI they’ll be regulated by the Fundraising Regulator, if their primary location is Scotland, they will be fall under Scotland’s regulatory system.
Edinburgh has a robust charity sector with over 2800 registered charities covering a wide variety of categories. All of these charities, no matter how small, will now fall under this new regulatory system. SCVO’s report highlights the role of local TSIs, like EVOC and our partners in Edinburgh, to support charities and their trustees in this role, particularly small charities who haven’t previously had to adhere to fundraising standards.
At this stage, charities and trustees should ensure that they are familiar with the Fundraising Code of Practice, use this to review practices, and make sure they have a transparent and effective complaints system. Trustees should understand their roles and responsibilities in fundraising, which includes staying informed as the regulations develop as there is still a proposed Fundraising Preference Service not yet implemented and changes to the fundraising guidelines.
*Source: Edinburgh Compact, Compact Voice 15/16