Scottish Charities are at a crossroads in the regulation of fundraising. Two reviews offering future possibilities were recently published, one by SCVO for Scotland; the other by NCVO for the rest of the UK.

An assumptive tone runs through NCVO’s report and the mood music coming from the existing bodies Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), Public Fundraising Association (PFRA) and Institute of Fundraising (Iof) is for changes to apply across the UK, with scant consideration given to Scotland.

Launching its report SCVO said, “self-regulation is still the best way to oversee fundraising in Scotland but we need a much simpler approach. Charities and their trustees should take the lead in designing a new system of self-regulation.” I agree.

calling in the evening seems to me to be a legitimate activity … if its fine enough for political parties, then surely it’s ok for charities

In advance of this year’s recent IoF Scottish conference I posed a number of questions, including:

  • Is it really outrageous that fundraisers can knock on your door after 8pm?
  • Are there too many sector bodies, and should IoF, FRSB and PFRA merge?

The first refers to trivial matters the FRSB has been concentrating on, rather than the bigger picture about the rise of a culture in fundraising that increases pressure on donors.

Many of those who are economically active are out working during the days, so calling in the evening seems to me to be a legitimate activity, up until a cut off time of say 9pm or before. If it’s fine enough for political parties to call at 8.30pm, then surely it’s OK for charities.

What the FRSB should be asking is how often a single door is knocked, and the nature of the tenor and tone of the request. After all, you can’t raise money without asking.

In recent years I’ve come to the opinion that three industry bodies causes confusion for donors who want to complain. I first posed the latter question in early summer, when there was little evidence of how events would unfold. Now it’s a question we need to urgently address in Scotland.

The SCVO report suggests areas where further discussions should take place. The NCVO report, on the other hand, is with the UK Government. Given the UK Government’s comments when commissioning the report, coupled with those of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, it’s a reasonable bet that much of the NCVO report will come to pass.

My concern is that without Scottish debate and a real effort made to show ownership, many of the changes which will come to affect UK wide bodies will assume compliance from Scottish interests.

One option for a country the size of Scotland is to merge all three of the existing bodies into a one-stop fundraising regulator. There may well be other solutions, but it’s time we had fundraising regulatory bodies that reflect and have caught up with our current devolved framework.