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What was the IoF up to?

What is one to make of the fact that the Institute of Fundraising, just over a year ago, drew up a confidential internal document scoping how it might merge the membership of the Fundraising Standards Board with its own? It was clearly more than a passing thought – the document, leaked to Third Sector, runs to nine pages and includes detailed analyses of current membership fees of both organisations and calculations of how a combined membership fee might work.

It notes in passing that the FRSB figures were obtained “confidentially and unofficially” and that “the institute currently appears to have problems with data management and administration of the membership is inefficient.”

The institute declines to offer an explanation of the document beyond saying that  it is out of date and was not taken forward for discussion at a senior level. All it says in a statement is that the document was produced in the wake of Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006, in which he called for more clarity and less duplication in the self-regulation of fundraising. “Lots of people and organisations, including the IoF, were thinking about how the system could improve,” says the statement. “We were indeed exploring whether any benefits or cost savings could be gained from different structures in the future.”

It seems clear from the document and the statement that the IoF did not envisage taking over the FRSB’s role of adjudicating complaints, but was instead thinking of a way of trying to make sure that any organisation joining the FRSB also joined the IoF, which would administer the membership while leaving adjudication to a slimmed-down FRSB. There has, after all, been a slow but steady rise in charities and fundraising organisations joining the FRSB, encouraged to do so by everyone from the government downwards. The membership currently stands at nearly 1,600, a figure likely to make the IoF, with its 360 charity and supplier members, feel somewhat green – not least because the more charities spend on joining the FRSB, the less they will presumably be able to afford to join the IoF as well.

With its partnership fund grant from the government fast ebbing away, it was perhaps understandable in 2012 that the IoF was looking at ways of boosting its membership and consolidating its finances. Whether “lots of people and organisations” were doing something similar is yet to be demonstrated.

The general background to the affair, of course, is the less than harmonious relationship between the IoF and the FRSB. Many in the fundraising world have always felt the FRSB was a money-wasting answer to a problem that didn’t exist and have not been able to resist sniping from the sidelines. When the FRSB completed only a small number of adjudications one year, for example, a senior IoF figure tweeted a barbed calculation of how much each one had notionally cost. A poorly disguised resentment persists.

Thankfully there is some prospect of breaking out of this cycle in the coming months. The IoF, FRSB and Public Fundraising Regulatory Association have been making some progress in the last year towards meeting Lord Hodgson’s requirement. But they have been unable to reach a settlement themselves, and the Cabinet Office last year provided some funds for PwC to study the question. The consultancy’s report is said to be imminent. Let’s hope it appears soon and produces a workable way forward.

  • first saving at every charity I go to is ditch FRSB “a money-wasting answer to a problem that didn’t exist” … totally useless

  • IAS2011

    A good story to reflect on how “Charity” should work.
    Can I suggest that the “certain man” who was mugged reflects those who were failed by a recession and the activities that led to it – resulting in viable small businesses being taken from people, homes being taken away from people and a new dawn exposed in the hike of vulnerability via homelessness and temporary accommodation status was born. Amidst this reality, many may well say “where was the voice of the Charity sector via the media? Where was the emphasis on “failing those already vulnerable” via political policy making decisions? Where was this “Sam” amongst all that was wrong in attitude and action?
    Thus, might well strongly believe that the sector itself lack strength and a Voice where it matters – and where it should be fundamental when standing-up for its customer base – and potential customer base.
    Every business seeks sustainable growth – in both its funding streams, customer base and in its aim to develop new customer basis, partnerships and funding streams – in order to sustain a viable working platform to harness such opportunities.
    It may well be clear to many that in order for the sector to grow… it has to willing and determined to harness the skills and talent from not just its own sector, but from others too. This diversity of minds can establish the “Sam” that you refer too. But, it can also become bolder in its attempt to harness the Voices of those who are Failed through political or other means via the media… and other resources too.
    If a ‘conflict of interest’ with its funders are preventing “Sam” from appearing to help those failed and vulnerable, then the Charity has be bold to accept this and set-out to nurture a revenue platform for itself via the sort of new relationships I refer to above.
    Ivor
    Ivor