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New ‘Regulator’ for Face to Face Fundraising

11 December 2014 at 9:45 am
Xavier Smerdon
Six powerful Australian charities have united to protect the future of face to face fundraising, or “chugging”, as it is controversially known.

Xavier Smerdon | 11 December 2014 at 9:45 am


New ‘Regulator’ for Face to Face Fundraising
11 December 2014 at 9:45 am

Six powerful Australian charities have united to protect the future of face to face fundraising, or “chugging”, as it is controversially known.

Amnesty International Australia, Australian Red Cross, Cancer Council NSW, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, MSF Australia and The Fred Hollows Foundation have combined to fund the development of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA).

The organisation will act as a regulator of face to face fundraising with the goal of introducing and maintaining an industry standard for the often maligned form of fundraising.

Paul Tavatgis, who has been working with the stakeholder charities to help develop the PFRA, told Pro Bono Australia News that the organisation would be the “day to day policemen” of chugging.

He said it had been set up to ensure face to face fundraising could survive amid growing threats to its sustainability.

“It’s been around since the late 1990’s and I think every year now it’s pulling in at least $200 million for charities in Australia,” Tavatgis said.

“So it’s a fairly substantial source of funds and probably recruiting in excess of 300,000 new donors every year for Australian charities.

“Just in those terms it’s something that it’s worthy of having higher standards and protecting to ensure its sustainability. If charities had to replace those sources of funds it would be very, very hard for them to do.”

Tavatgis said the main threats to the future of chugging were local authorities reducing access to certain locations, negative perceptions in the media and the lack of a common standard of practice.

“As with all forms of fundraising, the vast majority of what’s going on is high quality, lots of people are signing up, they’re very happy with it, but occasionally we get situations where the standard is not as high as we would like it to be,” he said.

“Because face to face is such a literally public form of fundraising, mistakes that are made are a lot more visible and tend to appear a lot more quickly in things like the media and be a lot more obvious to regulators and local authorities.

“I don’t think in any overall sense that face to face is being done badly but it’s just that when something is done badly it’s just much easier for the public, for the media and for regulators to see and that’s the thing that leads to a poor public perception.

Tavatgis said the PFRA would be funded by charities through registry fees and a levy base on the number of new donors they sign up every year while agencies would also pay a membership fee.

He said while working to maintain a common standard in chugging, the PFRA would also work to improve relationships with local authorities.

“It (calls to set up the PFRA) is coming from the sector because I think one of the main things that we’re facing is the fact that local authorities are becoming less supportive of face to face and it’s becoming harder for charities to find locations for fundraisers to go to,” he said.

“That is an outcome if you like of, as a sector, not being able to maintain a consistent standard.

“Also, local authorities don’t have a single place to go when they do have issues. They have to complain to an individual charity or an individual agency, but that individual charity can only improve their own behaviour, but if another charity goes in next week and the council complains to them they start to feel that they’re always saying the same thing but no one seems to be listening.

“I think that’s the main symptom that we’ve got to address.”

While the Fundraising Institute Australia already has a voluntary code of conduct for chuggers, Tavatgis said the PFRA’s code would actually be enforced.

“The PFRA and the FIA codes will be consistent with each other but I think the difference is that PFRA will be actively going out there and seeking to enforce the code,” he said.

“I suppose we will be the day to day policemen for the code.

“Whereas the FIA standard is great and it says everything that should be said, but it’s really on a complaint basis so if someone decides they don’t like something then they will raise it with the FIA.

“I suppose in shorthand though, the PFRA will actually be going out there and looking for trouble.”

While it has not yet been determined what kind of penalties charities could face for breaking the code of conduct, Tavatgis said possible penalties could include naming charities, restrictions on chugging in specific locations or fines.

The PFRA will hold its first general meeting in February next year and it is hoped that it will be operational the same month.

For more information e-mail Paul Tavatgis at

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.


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