Charity fundraising code to be improved

The Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) has released an exposure draft of a revised fundraising code of conduct for the charity sector.

The code aims to reflect best practice and addresses some of the public concerns raised against fundraising practices in recent times. These include how fundraisers approach people in vulnerable circumstances and the due diligence charities carry out when working with fundraising contractors.

The FIA, along with the Governance Institute, are both part of a powerful coalition of bodies calling on all Australian governments to work together to provide charities and other not-for-profits with a nationally-consistent and fit-for purpose regulatory regime for fundraising.

FIA CEO Rob Edwards noted that the FIA code of conduct was last updated in 2010.

‘As codes are "living documents", they need to be reviewed from time to time to remain relevant, reflect best practice and meet community expectations,’ he said.

‘The latest review undertaken by our Sustainability Task Force has identified a number of areas where fundraising pratices could be improved in order to help ensure Australians continue to give generously to charities.’

Speaking at the 40th Annual FIA Conference on the Gold Coast in February, Edwards revealed the review was triggered by a letter received over a year ago from the then communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who expressed concerns about the behaviour of some fundraisers.

Turnbull was especially concerned about their conduct towards vulnerable people, he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) released its own guidance on managing third party arrangements in November after concerns were raised in the media about for-profit fundraising agencies.

Produced in conjunction with the FIA and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, this guidance aims to help charities manage existing relationships with fundraisers and enter into new agreements, while still ensuring they met their obligations as a registered charity.

Releasing the guidance, ACNC Commissioner, Susan Pascoe, noted that charity boards could not outsource their responsibilities when it came to fundraising contractors.

‘Board should be satisfied that the fundraising agency they have contracted is aware of its legal obligations, has appropriate policies and processes to ensure compliance and also shares the values of the charity,’ she said.

‘A charity must have appropriate oversight of all of the activities conducted by a fundraising agency.’

What to expect from the FIA’s new code of conduct

The Fundraising Institute of Australia’s (FIA) proposed fundraising code of conduct for the charity sector includes new protections for people in vulnerable circumstances, including help to be removed from contact lists.

FIA CEO Rob Edwards says proposed changes could also result in 'spot checks' and compulsory code training for all professional fundraisers. Charities will have to ensure that all new staff appointed from 1 July 2017 and who are engaged in fundraising activities have completed FIA code training within six months of their appointment.

The code is self-regulatory and does not replace or override any law, but adherence to the code will be a requirement for FIA membership. Compliance with the code will be monitored and enforced by the FIA’s ethics committee.

Among the new protections for people in vulnerable circumstances, the code requires FAI members not to accept a donation where they have a reasonable belief that the donor is in vulnerable circumstances or lacks capacity to make a decision to donate.

In addition, FIA members must:

  • not subject donors to undue influence, harassment, intimidation or coercion.
  • maintain an appropriate professional relationship with the donor in connection with any bequest.
  • not prevent or discourage a donor from seeking independent legal advice in relation to a donation.
  • not prevent or discourage a donor from having a family member or other trusted adviser present when considering a donation.
  • not, after obtaining a donation, change the conditions of the donation without first communicating with the donor any changes and gaining their consent for the change.

The FIA proposed code will also require members to provide information about how the prospective donor can opt-out of receiving any further solicitations from the member each time they contact a prospective donor.

In addition to new requirements for their promotional materials, members must also ensure all relevant parties in their supply chain are aware of their obligations under the code and do not act in ways that could result in the member being in breach of the code.

At the top level, at least one board member, on behalf of the board of directors, or the CEO of the charity will have to sign off annually on the member’s adherence to this code.

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