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Fundraising – an update

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Fundraising has been in the news again this week, with the Fundraising Regulator announcing the start-up of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS).  It struck me that it was probably a good time to clarify what is happening in Scotland and, particularly, why the FPS is not being introduced for Scottish charities.

But first, what is the FPS?  It is an online based service that allows any member of the public in the UK to manage communications from charities that are registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (CCEW) or with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI).  When you log on, you can identify up to three charities from which you want to stop emails, telephone calls, addressed post, and/or text messages.  If you want to identify more, then you can submit further requests.  There is more information on this on the Fundraising Regulator's website.

But why will the FPS not be used for Scottish charities? 

The FPS was originally proposed in the review of fundraising regulation in England and Wales, led by Sir Stuart Etherington, which resulted in the report, Regulating Fundraising for the Future.  The Scottish Fundraising Working Group was set up to consider the issue of fundraising regulation in Scotland.  In a very different context, and with a constituency that is heavily weighted towards small and medium sized charities, the focus was on how to create a system that could help support and develop high quality fundraising practice here. 

The extent to which the FPS could contribute to such a system was considered.  However, after looking at the information available and consulting with key organisations and individuals, there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that the FPS would offer anything over the current legal requirements (the Telephone Preference Service and the Mail Preference Service).  Rather, it was felt that time and energy would be better spent on raising fundraising standards across Scotland, a big part of which would be to ensure that charities understood the practical ramifications of their legal obligations.   

In a sector where over 50% of charities have an income of less than £25,000, it is important to try and get the balance right between facilitating compliance through information sharing and guidance, and being ready to act strongly where charities make serious mistakes.  The current system is designed to do this for fundraising, with the emphasis on raising standards of fundraising and complaints handling being backed up by a vigorous approach to adjudicating complaints by the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel.