The Fundraising Regulator’s revised Code of Fundraising Practice came into force on 1 October 2019. Following a consultation on the Code earlier this year, the Fundraising Regulator published a revised version of the Code in June 2019. Charities and fundraising organisations were then given three months to get to grips with the new format. The new version of the Code will be used to adjudicate on complaints arising on or after 1 October. If the incident giving rise to the complaint occurred before this, then the previous version of the Code will apply.
The Fundraising Regulator’s main aim in undertaking the review of the Code was to make it more accessible and easier to navigate, but not to make substantive changes to the Code provisions themselves. The Code is now split into three sections – Part one covers the standards that apply to all fundraising; Part two includes the standards when working with others (including professional fundraisers, corporate partners and volunteers); and Part three includes the standards that apply to specific fundraising methods (such as events, lotteries and digital fundraising). The rule-books for street and door to door fundraising as well as the legal appendices are now incorporated into the Code, so that fundraisers only have to refer to one set of standards, and the distinctions between the law in England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been made clearer.
So must charities do anything differently now? In theory, no but charities will need to familiarise themselves with the new format and made any necessary updates to policies and training materials that refer to the old code. The Fundraising Regulator has produced a helpful “code map” to track where old provisions appear in the new version.
Lessons from recent Fundraising Regulator investigations
In addition to the new Code, the Fundraising Regulator has also recently published the first batch of summaries of the complaints that it has investigated since 1 March 2019. This follows a change in the Fundraising Regulator’s policy on the reporting of complaints, which we wrote about in a previous update. The Fundraising Regulator will now publish summaries of all complaints it investigates, regardless of whether a charity has been found to be in breach of the Code. The first set of complaints cover a range of issues, including face to face fundraising, charity bag collections and direct marketing. In cases where the complaint was against a charity and a third party fundraising on its behalf, some charities were able to demonstrate sufficient monitoring of the third party so as not to be in breach themselves. The importance of charities handling complaints well is highlighted by some charities being found to be in breach of the Code on the basis of their poor complaints handling. This policy shift means that more than ever, charities will want to ensure that they and their fundraisers are complying with the Code of Fundraising Practice, and that the charity has good complaints handling processes in place. If complaints do reach the Fundraising Regulator then charities will also want to check and where necessary suggest amendments to the draft investigation summary before it is published in order to limit the risk of reputational damage to the charity.