Most people who have any association with a charity – as trustee, volunteer, fundraiser or beneficiary – will have noticed the recent stream of headlines about fundraising.
First there were media stories about poor practices; then there was coverage of the measures being taken to improve matters. Now Scotland has a new system of self-regulation for fundraising, and charities must adhere to a Fundraising Code of Practice.
As a result, some trustees and volunteers may be wondering where they stand: what can they do, what can’t they do, and what are the grey areas they must beware of?
For Scotland’s 183,000 charity trustees, the duties are clear. They must make sure their charity’s fundraising activities comply with relevant laws, and do not put the charity or its reputation at unnecessary risk.
In practice, this requires them to know how funds are raised; that their practices comply with legislation and standards; and that their system for dealing with fundraising complaints is robust.
But what about people who do volunteer fundraising, whether it’s shaking a bucket at sports matches or coming up with creative ideas about winter sleep-outs or sponsored paragliding? Do they have new responsibilities?
Legally, no; their chosen charity should guide them about what’s permissible or inadvisable. But on a practical level, all trustees and fundraisers can support their charity by filtering their own or other people’s ideas for raising funds by asking questions like,
- Could the fundraising activity risk the charity’s reputation, for example through health and safety risks, or by appearing to pressurise potential donors?
- Could it create a backlash, when misinterpreted or viewed from a different perspective?
- Could it cause donor fatigue through being too frequent or too trite?
If you are unsure that your charity’s fundraising activities will pass through these filters, or may be questionable in terms of legality, transparency or respect for donors, it is worthwhile speaking up or seeking external advice.