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4 Challenges of fundraising

Extract from a dictionary showing the word ethics
Figure 5 Ethical issues are important in fundraising

Getting it right in fundraising is very important. We all know when things have gone badly wrong, for we see headlines like ‘Pair jailed for pocketing cancer cash’ or ‘Kidney charity closes after damning report’.

But how do organisations get into such messes? Generally, most people undertaking fundraising activities do not set out to break the law. It usually happens because those in charge did not pay sufficient attention to the ethics of fundraising and making sure there were adequate systems in place to account for the money collected.

Fundraising thrives on innovation and new ideas to capture the interest and enthusiasm of donors and supporters. But what if these approaches to fundraising take organisations into unchartered territory where the ethical implications are unclear?

Ethical behaviour is about making moral judgements about what is right and what is wrong and then developing codes of practice to hold these beliefs in place and provide the bases for expressing them in action. Many ethical issues are given force by legal requirements – for example, there are strict laws governing the conduct of much fundraising practice, from the handling of people’s data to the regulation of house-to-house collections and raffles. The majority of complaints about fundraising tend to relate to phone calls, street sign-ups, doorstep collecting and direct mail, all of which are often perceived as aggressive and highly pressured.

The fundraising profession in the UK has extensive guidelines for all aspects of fundraising practice in its regularly updated Codes of Fundraising Practice. However, due to media attention and cases of malpractice in fundraising during 2015, new regulations are currently being discussed to ensure tighter controls.

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has provided an independent public complaints system for complaints about charity fundraising, which is now under review. The Public Fundraising Association (PFRA) is the standards and membership body for organisations carrying out face-to-face fundraising on the street. This is defined as:

The solicitation of a regular gift to charity, usually by direct debit or standing order.

(PFRA, 2015)

You may have heard the staff who approach people on the street referred to as ‘chuggers’, and there have been increased concerns about their behaviour in recent years. The PFRA has developed codes of practice (rule books) for face-to-face fundraising on the street and for knocking on doors, ensuring that the public are respected, safeguarded and informed about what they are being asked to sign up for.