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New Authority to Oversee Fundraising Code

19 October 2017 at 8:28 am
Wendy Williams
A new independent authority has been established to help raise the bar for fundraisers around best practice and ethical conduct.

Wendy Williams | 19 October 2017 at 8:28 am


New Authority to Oversee Fundraising Code
19 October 2017 at 8:28 am

A new independent authority has been established to help raise the bar for fundraisers around best practice and ethical conduct.

The Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) has announced the establishment of a seven-member Code Authority to oversee its new fundraising code which was approved in June and is set to come into force from 1 January 2018.

The authority, made up of charity, donor and supplier representatives, will be responsible for compliance monitoring, complaints administration and making recommendations for improvements to self-regulation, reporting quarterly to the FIA board.

Dr Ursula Stephens, a former ALP senator who has held several senior positions within the Parliament and will chair the new authority, told Pro Bono News having a code and an engaged, robust authority would ensure sector standards were adhered to.

“Fundraising is being increasingly relied upon by charities and not-for-profit organisations to raise much needed funds to help the communities they serve,” Stephens said.

“We want to ensure good ethical practices and high standards are promoted and that FIA members and the broader fundraising community meet these standards.”

The revised code, which is a voluntary, self-regulatory code of conduct for fundraising in Australia, aims to raise standards of conduct across the sector by going beyond the requirements of government regulation.

It has removed duplication and included new protections for people in vulnerable circumstances as well as a new compliance framework

Stephens, who previously led the government’s work in the creation of the ACNC and the development of a National Compact with the NFP sector, said it was very important for the sector to protect vulnerable people.

“Professional fundraisers are very persuasive in their technique and if you are someone who has an emotional attachment to an issue, whether it is an environmental issue or a social issue, then you can commit yourself unwittingly to a donation regime that you actually can’t manage so, this is what we’re saying about vulnerable people,” she said.

“For the Australian charity sector more broadly I think it is fundamental that we protect vulnerable people from that kind of pressure; in many cases they should be the recipients of that charity not the donors.”

She said the code was centered on maintaining donor trust.

“I think that what we have seen in Australia, even in the last Giving Australia report which was commissioned by the Australian government and undertaken by the Queensland University of Technology Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, just goes to the issue of donor fatigue, a much more aggressive kind of approach to donors and much more engaged community that is trying to make their giving more purposeful,” she said.

“So the code is really about allowing the best fundraisers to be exemplar in their processes and also to shake up some of the less scrupulous fundraisers that we know are still around and to improve the practices overall.

“Because if you can’t maintain donor trust then philanthropy can’t grow in Australia and that is the underpinning principle of growing the culture of giving in Australia that the Fundraising Institute is really trying to drive.”

She said trust was fundamental to the relationship between charities and donors.

“Their reputation is based upon a relationship of trust between the donor and the charity itself,” Stephens said.

“We’ve had discussions and it’s been in the media about the costs of fundraising and I think it is very important for charities to be very transparent around what it costs for charities to get you to give and the cost of delivering your gift to the community in whichever projects you are supporting.

“Trust is fundamental to the relationship between charities and donors, and everything that can be done to protect that reputation is fundamental to what the code is seeking to achieve.”

Stephens said she was “delighted” to have been asked to work with the sector on best practice.

“What I bring to the code authority is an independence and an understanding of both the sector and the regulatory environment in which the sector operates,” she said.

“I am able to consider how voluntary codes of practice have operated in other sectors and regulatory environments and draw on that experience to bring great ideas and systemic change where it is needed to the FIA and to fundraising more generally, to support and underpin the charity sector in Australia, that’s my passion.”

Stephens will be joined on the board by Bruce Cotton from Pareto Phone, Ben Cox from Legacy Queensland, Bill Dee from Compliance and Complaints Advisory Services, Jennifer Doubell from Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation, Dr Sue-Anne Wallace AM from Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative and Roewen Wishart from Xponential.

FIA CEO Rob Edwards said it was important to have both the donor and sector perspective on the Code Authority and that Stephens was across both areas.

“We are pleased to have Dr Stephens on board as our first chair of the FIA Code Authority,” Edwards said.

“We made this appointment in recognition of the need for a strong chair as we move to establish higher standards for fundraisers around best practice and ethical conduct.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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  • Monique Littlejohn says:

    I look forward to reading the new fundraising code being drafted by the Fundraising Institute Australia. It will have a section dedicated to fundraising with vulnerable groups – those closest to the cause. While there indeed are unscrupulous charities and fundraisers out there, so much is also part of perception. As a former Director with MDA in California, the families that we served were not the primary donors, but many chose to fight back against the disease by acting as spokespeople through the Telethon and other media. In one case, Augie Nieto, who is now the face of ALS even started a division called Augie’s Quest, where he used his resources to raise funds for the organization. Would such an awe inspiring and generous person be turned away in the new framework? Could this new code potentially cause harm by taking the power away from those closest to the cause (parents, siblings, and clients) by not allowing them to fundraise, and render them with the feeling of powerlessness?

  • Morri Young says:

    Congratulations to Ursula for being appointed to the chair of this group. I am sure she will be rigorous in monitoring the independence of this “Authority”. She will have her work cutout for her, given the Authority members are appointed by the FIA and it reports to the FIA, and the code is voluntary and described as ‘self regulating’. I am glad to see that the FIA are taking a step to ensuring its members abide by a code of conduct. Let’s home the Authority can enforce it..

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