Govt accepts all recommendations of Etherington review

The Government has accepted all the recommendations of the Etherington review of fundraising practice and regulation.

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson announced on the weekend that forthcoming changes could force large charities to sign up to a new fundraising watchdog. The new regulator will require charities to have the explicit consent of all donors, past and present, before any data can be shared.

The Government supports the proposed fundraising preference service, enabling individuals to add their name to a suppression list giving fundraisers a clear indication they do not wish to be contacted. Under the system fundraisers should have a responsibility to check against the FPS before sending out a campaign.

“Charitable giving is one of the most decent and generous attributes of a civilised society – and we need to rebuild people’s faith in the big charities,” Wilson said. “We are building a new regulatory structure to make sure the right safeguards exist to protect those people at risk of exploitation. This should help the charities to draw a line under previous bad practice and I hope we will see even more people making donations and giving their time to help others in the months and years ahead.”

Cabinet Office announced the Government will have new powers to intervene and regulate fundraising if large charities, likely to be defined as those spending more than £100,000 a year on public fundraising, fail to safeguard supporters in any way.

Amendments to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill progressing through Parliament will require trustees of large charities to disclose details of fundraising activity in their annual reports. Information required will include whether agencies are used and the public protection measures in place.

A review panel chaired by NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington delivered a range of recommendations for improving fundraising practice just under two weeks ago. Proposals included replacing the Fundraising Standards Board with a new Fundraising Regulator.

Etherington said he is pleased the Government has accepted the recommendations. There is a clear need for a more “visible and effective” regulator with tougher powers, he said.

“The public have to know where to report their concerns and have confidence that action will be taken in relation to wrong doing. This will inevitably mean big changes in relation to how charities raise funds from the public,” Etherington said. “I know that charities understand the necessity of restoring public trust and are aware that changes are required. I’ve agreed with the Minster that we should move quickly towards implementation and look forward to working with the bodies affected and others in the charity sector to work through the finer details.”

The review concluded self-regulation remains “the most appropriate mechanism for the charity sector to show its commitment to high ethical standards which safeguard public trust and confidence”.

However, the self-regulatory system would need to be backed by close working relationships with existing statutory regulators such as the Charity Commission, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the Trading Standards Authority.

Charity Commission chair William Shawcross said the review is “an important step towards rebuilding public trust in charity fundraising”.

“The review makes recommendations to reform and strengthen self-regulation. Charities must now step up and lead the way forward,” Shawcross said. “The Charity Commission will play its part to support the development of any new fundraising regulatory body. It is crucial that charity trustees meet their obligations to oversee fundraising and I welcome the emphasis on this in the review.”

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