George Kidd appointed as Fundraising Preference Service chair | DMA

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George Kidd appointed as Fundraising Preference Service chair


Chief commissioner at the Direct Marketing Commission George Kidd has been appointed chair of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS), part of the 'last chance' before statutory regulation

The announcement came at the Future of Fundraising summit held by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to update interested parties on progress since the publication of Sir Stuart Etherington's report into charity fundraising, published in September.

George Kidd will manage the introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service on behalf of Lord Michael Grade, incoming chairman of the newly formed Fundraising Regulator. Grade promised to appoint a chief executive to run the Fundraising Regulator before Christmas.

In his introduction, Sir Stuart Etherington said fundraising is a, "Vital public interface" between charities and the public, and for fundraising to be successful, it has to be conducted properly.

"Some fundraising has fallen short," he said, adding that for charities to rebuild public trust, there needs to be a, "balance between public’s right to be left alone, and charity’s right to ask [for donations]."

Last chance

Etheringon was the first of many speakers to use the same warning, that if this review of fundraising practices failed then there would be no choice but to revert to statutory regulation. "Nobody wanted it [statutory regulation], and wanted to keep self-regulation, and we have achieved that. If we are not serious in this, then the government will have no alternative. Statutory regulation remains a possibility," he said.


Chair of the Charity Commission for England and Wales William Shawcross said that trustees and board members of charities had often been absent or uninvolved in aspects of both fundraising and ethics. "Boards should have been more directly involved in fundraising. This is why issues over the summer came about – trustees had taken their eye off the ball," he said.

"Fundraising should not be the priority. The priority should be fundraising methods and practices," he said. Echoing Etherington, he said, "I think charities should be able to regulate themselves. This is the last chance."

He set out six principles charities need to follow to ensure fundraising operates effectively:

  • Planning effectively and setting the overall approach
  • Supervise fundraisers, whether volunteers or agencies. "Too many were not keeping an eye on their fundraisers’ methods," he said.
  • Protect charity’s reputation and other assets
  • Comply with fundraising law
  • Follow recognised standars, which is the code of fundraising practice
  • Be open and accountable

Statutory knife-edge

Rob Wilson, the minister for the civil society, said the sector had already come incredibly close to statutory regulation over the summer, "It was on a knife edge to force statutory regulation. You do not know how close it came," he said.

"Confidence in charities has dropped to its lowest level since 1997. That trust in charities is so low is concerning," he said. "The public wants greater control over how and when they are contacted, and have the ability to say ‘no more’.

"FPS will not be the default way for people to interact with charities, but give them the means to reset their relationship. FPS is just one part of the system to improve fundraising in the long run. Public and parliament have to make this happen. If this fails, statutory regulation will include the FPS," he said.

Several questions expressed alarm at the introduction of the FPS, which they said would reduce donations.


"I have heard dire predictions, and I treat them with scepticism, because it’s difficult to predict the impact of something that has not been designed yet. It [the FPS] must be able to have a reset button for any person feeling inundated with the volume of communications, but I don’t want it to be so complicated that it takes forever to deliver it," said Wilson.

Finally, Lord Grade spoke, first to announce the appointment of George Kidd to the post of chair of the FPS. Kidd will lead the introduction of the service.

"There will be an intense few months of ideas batted around. We don’t want to make a mistake, but we will make mistakes initially, but the way we’ll flush that out is by meeting you and making representations.

"But we can’t row back on Etherington – if you want that, it won’t wash. That boat has sailed," he said.

One question asked what would happen if the FPS was unworkable. Once again Grade warned that, "Then we have to look at statutory regulation if all else fails."

Responsible practice

Kidd said the FPS would be, "A working group. If we get responsible practice, it will dramatically reduce the use of this preference service. I’m instinctively an opt-out person. If you want to demonstrate why opt-in’s right, then you need to demonstrate why opt-out’s not.

"Choosing not to listen might have a short term benefit for some fundraisers, but it’s long term ruin," he said.

Statutory backstop

Grade ended the meeting with these words, "Compare to press regulation. To be a newspaper, anyone can start one tomorrow. For a charity, you need statutory recognition through the Charity Commission.

"Ultimately, if a charity kept misbehaving, they could be referred to the Charity Commission and acts taken we are not able to enforce.

"Without the safety net of the Charity Commission and Information Commissioner (ICO), self-regulation would be difficult. But with that, we are in a very good place. If people don’t want to join, they don’t want to join. It won’t stop us acting within the powers you have given to us. Whether affiliated or not affiliated, a charity is a charity. We have to protect the charity sector and the interests of the charity sector. We should have a kitemark of some kind – something charities would be proud to sign up to," he said.

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