In this blog, Charlotte Weatherley, Growing Giving Policy and Partnerships Manager, outlines some of the key proposals and questions in the Fundraising Regulator’s current consultation on the Code of Fundraising Practice.
The Fundraising Regulator’s latest consultation starts to give us a picture of what a new Code could look like, and will no doubt have many fundraisers thinking about what this means for best practice and innovation. Overall, it feels like the Regulator is asking the right questions and some of the proposed changes could make it easier to navigate the Code and provide clarity on how to safely embed new technologies into fundraising.
We will be consulting on all areas of the consultation, but for now we wanted to share some of the key proposals that stand out to us. You can also read our working response here please do get in touch with me on email@example.com if you have any feedback.
The Regulator recognises that certain standards of the Code can be linked by a specific theme and therefore grouping them together under a principle could make the Code more streamlined. For example, Section 8: Collecting money or other property currently has five standards, under the new Code these would be merged into one rule. If you want to see what a principles-based Code would look like, you can find a range of examples here.
We’re pleased to see that this approach is being considered as many of our members suggested that a principles-based approach could make the Code more user-friendly. That said, there are many questions on how this would work in practice. There are concerns that the public’s view on how to meet a principle will differ from the Regulator or charity’s view, which could lead to unnecessary criticism. In a similar vein, some members question how adjudication would be approached under this new Code. With this in mind, we have recommended that the Regulator clarify how they will support charities and the public through this transition.
There are several areas where the Regulator is not the lead regulator, but the Code needs to reference them. They currently do this by summarising standards from other legislation, which is leading some to think that the Regulator should be adjudicating on areas outside their remit. So to solve this, the Regulator is considering replacing these standards with links to the responsible regulator’s guidance.
Interestingly members’ opinions on this differ. Whilst some welcome this change and think it will make it easier to explain the role of the Regulator to people who aren’t fundraising specialists, others think that having all the information in one place will save them time. We therefore would like to work with the regulator to explore how training, guidance or resources could be used to support fundraisers through this transition period, and over the long-term.
From contactless to crypto, the past few years have seen charities adopt new technologies to make fundraising more accessible and efficient. The Regulator is now looking at what standards or guidance is needed to sure that these technologies (including microdonations, social media, gaming and streaming and online fundraising platforms) are used in a way that is fair and transparent.
Broadly these seem like the right kind of areas for the Regulator to explore but there are some questions on how this will work if the Code adopts a principles-based approach. For example, does social media need additional standards, or could be this be incorporated into a principle relating to fundraising communications? Will this be approached through guidance rather than standards?
You can read more about the different areas the Regulator is looking into and members’ views on them in our working draft response at the top of this page.
The question on how to limit donor dominance and protect fundraisers from harassment has been a challenge for the sector for a number of years. The Regulator is now exploring how the Code could tackle this through standards that protect fundraisers from inappropriate behaviour from donors.
We strongly believe that safeguarding fundraisers and stopping all forms of harassment in the sector should be a priority for every charity and stakeholder. What we aren’t clear on is how this could be monitored or adjudicated on. To try and scope this out further, we are keen for the Regulator to engage with us to discuss what could be done to address this important issue.
The Regulator has outlined a few areas where they may not be expanding the Code right now, but would like to know more about. The first one is AI, which is already showing potential to make fundraising more efficient, however comes with some ethical challenges. We know that some members are using AI in their fundraising and look forward to facilitating more discussions on how this could be used and how future regulation in this area can enable innovation.
The second is whether to change the time restriction for face-to-face fundraising activities, particularly as donors’ habits have changed considerably since the pandemic with more people working from home. We are very keen to hear from agencies and face-to-face fundraisers how they think sign-up patterns have changes and their thoughts on the current approach.
There will of course be another consultation next year, but for now we are very keen to hear from members on how they think these changes could help or hinder their work. Please go get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts.
Charlotte Weatherley, Growing Giving Policy and Partnerships Manager
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