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Tougher Sanctions Send Warning Signal to Fundraisers

6 March 2018 at 8:52 am
Wendy Williams
Face to face fundraisers who break the rules are set to face tougher suspensions and sanctions under a new regime.

Wendy Williams | 6 March 2018 at 8:52 am


Tougher Sanctions Send Warning Signal to Fundraisers
6 March 2018 at 8:52 am

Face to face fundraisers who break the rules are set to face tougher suspensions and sanctions under a new regime.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, the self-regulatory body for face to face fundraising in Australia, announced on Tuesday that it has overhauled the association’s powers to suspend members and issue penalty fees with immediate effect.

As part of a package of measures approved by its new Membership and Accreditation Committee, any members who are suspended for persistently breaching the PFRA Standard will now be prohibited from providing or contracting services to the rest of the membership.

The PFRA has also increased the penalty fees it can levy against non-compliant members, with the maximum penalty in any 12 month period more than doubled from $10,000 to $21,000.

PFRA chief executive Peter Hills-Jones told Pro Bono News the changes “sent a strong signal to the entire fundraising community that the PFRA would not hesitate to act decisively when confronting poor practice”.

“It is an attempt to signal to our broader stakeholders, both the state regulators and our partner local councils, that we really want to see an improvement in compliance and standards over the course of 2018,” Hills-Jones said.

“We have made a big play over the course of the last couple of years about making sure that face to face fundraising is seen as professional and we really need to make sure that we’ve got everyone pulling in the same direction on that as well. So that means cutting out a lot of the non-compliance issues that we have picked up in my first three months since I’ve been in post.”

The new changes will apply equally to both charity and agency members of the PFRA.

Hills-Jones said the response to the changes had been positive.

“I think the vast majority of people who are out there in the face to face sector, whether on the charity or agency side, are really committed to high standards,” he said.

“What we need to do is make sure we have the systems in place to pick up issues of non-compliance, or breaches of the fundraising standard, and make sure those are acted on much more quickly.

“What I’ve seen so far is a little bit of a lag around when we’re flagging up issues, how quickly those are being acted on. So the increase in the penalty fines for non-compliance is an attempt to signal to members that they really need to get on top of these issues and act quickly when we flag things to them.”

Under the current face to face fundraising standard there are four sanction levels for PFRA members, with different points assigned to different types of offence.

“For instance, not having a permit would incur eight points, whereas perhaps a more minor offence would only occur one or two points,” Hills-Jones said.

“What happens is that if within any six month period you incur 50 points as a face to face fundraising actor, you actually have to be the one who is conducting that face to face fundraising, you would go on to a level one sanction level… and that would incur a $1,000 fine.

“Once you are on sanction level one, if you then incur another 50 points within another six months, you move onto sanction level two and so on and so forth as you move through the sanction levels until you hit the top level, which is sanction level four.

“In the past it was $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 and $4,000 fines for each of those sanction levels. What I have done is overhaul that to make sure it is a much steeper increase, so it goes from $1,000 to $3,000 to $7,000 to $10,000. So in effect, if within any 12 month period you have incurred 200 points and therefore hit sanction level four, you will now pay to the PFRA $21,000 rather than $10,000 in fines, so that is the aggregate sum of all the fines you will have incurred over the past 12 months.”

Any money received from these fees will be ring-fenced in a new Training and Skills Fund, which PFRA said will ensure investment is targeted on improving fundraisers’ compliance.

Hills-Jones said the majority of members will never have to pay the penalties “due to their excellent compliance”.

“But for the small minority who are failing to understand why consistent adherence to the PFRA Standard is important, I hope this acts as a wake-up call,” he said.

“Although we exist to support members if they need help, we cannot ignore the fact that too often, too many fundraisers are working without proper permission, identification or charity clothing. It’s unprofessional and it damages both the credibility and sustainability of F2F fundraising. This has to change – quickly.”

It comes as in the past six months, the PFRA has suspended two members – Rise Fundraising and NGO Fundraising.

Coinciding with the announcement of the new sanctions, PFRA announced Rise Fundraising has now been re-admitted following the completion of a comprehensive turnaround plan.

However NGO Fundraising has been terminated as members by the PFRA Board due to non-payment of membership fees.

It makes them the first member to be terminated with all state regulators and PFRA partner local councils informed of their expulsion. Hills-Jones said it was sending a strong signal that “if you are playing by the rules we will help and support you and represent you, but if you don’t then we need to make sure that we are being fair to everybody”.

“They are the first PFRA member to be terminated so it wasn’t a decision the board took lightly,” he said.

“They can no longer provide services to any charities within Australia, I have also notified my colleagues back in the UK as well as I am aware that he also has some business interests in the UK as well.

“We want to work together as a global network and most of the charities do face to face in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, America. This is a sign we are going to make sure, if you are suspended in one area that it is flagged up to other regulatory bodies in other countries.”

Meanwhile, the new managing director of Rise Fundraising, Daniel Moore said they were proud to be reinstated as a member of the PFRA.

“We have worked hard to address Rise Fundraising’s limitations and, by following the PFRA constructive guidance, we have grown throughout this process into a stronger, more complete fundraising company,” Moore said.

“Rise Fundraising would like to thank everyone for their support and we now look forward to strengthening our relationships with the PFRA, and all of its members, throughout the course of this year and onwards.”


UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that NGO Fundraising had their membership ceased due to non-payment of membership fees.

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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