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Fundraising Regulator Investigations - Charities to Be Publicly Named

on Tuesday, 05 March 2019.

As of 1 March 2019, the Fundraising Regulator is publicly naming every organisation it investigates. The new policy applies regardless of whether the organisation is found to have breached the Fundraising Code of Practice.

The Fundraising Regulator (FR) says it has taken this step to promote a culture of ethical fundraising and to help members of the public make informed decisions when they choose to donate to charity.

In this article, we look at this in more detail and consider how charities can reduce the risk of being named publicly.

What is the FR?

The FR is an independent regulator which aims to ensure that fundraising activities in the UK are legal, open, honest and respectful. Charities do not have to register with the FR, but doing so can demonstrate a charity's commitment to high standards of fundraising practice.

The FR investigates complaints about fundraisers from members of the public. For example, a complaint could state that an organisation's requests for donations are misleading, excessive, disrespectful or treat the donor in an unfair way.

The FR was set up in 2016 and since then has published investigation decisions on its website. Up until now, it has not named the organisations involved with the investigation. That is about to change.

How to Avoid Being Named and Get Your Perspective on the Record

Clearly this new naming policy will be of concern to charities, particularly when there is a real possibility that they could be named even when they have done nothing wrong. So how will it work?

When the FR receives a complaint about an organisation, its first step will usually be to ask the complainant to discuss their concerns with the organisation. If the complainant has not received a satisfactory response from the organisation within four weeks, the FR will begin its investigation. Therefore the first step is to ensure that you properly engage with any complaint that you receive.

The FR will collect evidence from all organisations involved in the complaint. If the FR identifies a breach in the code, it will send a draft decision to the organisation. The second step is therefore to make sure that your fundraising teams and policies properly reflect the fundraising code and the FR's suggested best practice.

It would appear that if the FR sends a draft report, then the charity will be named publicly, however charities should look to achieve the best outcome irrespective of this. Once it has the draft decision from the FR, organisations will have two weeks to check that the facts within the FR's report are accurate and to comment on the decision. The FR will consider the comments before finalising its decision. Step 3 therefore is to ensure that you properly scrutinise any report and seek professional advice if necessary.

If the report will be published, a summary of the investigation and the FR's findings will be published on its website. When publishing its decisions, the FR will "recognise the organisations that have cooperated fully with our investigation and any actions they have taken to learn from the complaint".

Timing

Organisations will be named in all case studies about complaints that the FR received since 1 March 2019. Investigations into complaints received before this date will remain anonymous. The case studies will be published quarterly, starting in June 2019. The FR will not publish the names of people who make complaints.

Many charities will understandably be worried about the prospect of being 'named and shamed', even if the charity is not found to be at fault. On the other hand, the new policy may help to improve transparency, accountability and public trust in the charities sector as whole.


If you would like to discuss how the FR's new policy may affect your charity, please get in touch. For more information please contact Con Alexander on 0117 314 5214.