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Charities given ‘last chance’ to self-regulate

29 January 2016

iSTOCK

CHRISTIAN charities have defended their fund-raising methods this week, as a report by MPs offered trustees a “last chance” for self-regulation. A number have also disclosed revisions to their policies, since reports of unethical conduct emerged in May.

The report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), published on Monday, warned that fund-raising activities could be controlled by law unless a new voluntary regulator succeeded in cleaning up the sector.

A review of claims of excessive pressure by charities on the public was launched after Olive Cooke, a 92-year-old poppy-seller, took her own life last May. Friends and relatives said that Mrs Cooke, who had donated to more than 40 causes, had been hounded by charities (News, 22 May 2015).

The Government appointed the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Sir Stuart Etherington, to lead the review into self-regulation. In September, he recommended that all regulators, including the central Fundraising Standards Board, should be replaced by a single organisation.

He also asked trustees and senior managers to take more responsibility for their charity’s fund-raising methods.

The Children’s Society said this week that it has since conducted a “full audit” of fund-raising in consultation with the trustees, while “seeking guidance” from a variety of external regulatory bodies. The charity also said that it has updated its database to “flag” when an individual was registered with the Telephone Preference Service, which allows UK consumers to opt out of telemarketing calls. The new system will mean that the Children’s Society cannot contact these individuals in future.

The Director of Fundraising and Supporter Engagement at the Children’s Society, Joe Jenkins, agreed that charities should be held to account for fund-raising decisions.

The charities Tearfund, Christian Aid, and CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education) have also responded to the PACAC report.

Tearfund’s Global Fundraising Director, Jane Pleace, said that the organisation “fully understands” concerns raised since the review, and said that “we have not — and will not — sell or pass on anyone’s details.”

Christian Aid said that it had “thoroughly reviewed” how it raised money. “We also know that the law, standards, and expectations may well evolve in future, and we want to ensure that we evolve with them,” a spokeswoman said.

The chief executive of CARE, Nola Leach, said: “We don’t use cold-calling, and we make sure we develop and put relationships with individuals and churches first.”

The Acting Director of Fundraising at World Vision UK, Graeme Newton, also welcomed the report. “We’re constantly checking and rechecking our procedures, including an external audit,” he said.

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