The Charity Commission Bares its Gums

Charity-Commission-logo-007After a year-long media firestorm over charity fundraising, the Charity Commission finally took notice this week with an outrageously ill-informed attack on charities by the Chair, William Shawcross. Among other things, he called street fundraisers ‘chuggers’ like the gutter press, dragged out Olive Cook again despite her family’s comments, and claimed that a friend of his had received hundreds of phone calls after making a single donation via text. Strangely there was no praise for the new Fundraising Regulator or the changes that charities have made in response to the attacks.

As it happens, the Old Etonian, Shawcross has form here after accusing charities of paying their CEOs too highly, but not mentioning the very high salaries of public school staff when he was commenting in the context of overseas aid charities. As it happens the CEOs pay of ‘charitable’ public schools dwarfs that of the CEOs of overseas aid charities.

More amusing was the warning that, after all this time, he was about to send a stern letter to charities about their fundraising, as if they had not noticed the press, or reacted so positively, even to the point where many fundraising agencies have gone bankrupt. His letter, incidentally, fires a warning shot across the bows of the new Fundraising Regulator that may like to see the Charity Commission as a backstop; rather than a front-line enforcer of the new Codes of Practice for Fundraising which will, of course, be under the Regulator’s wing not the Charity Commission. With the Charity Commission issuing its CC20 guidance for charities on Finance and Fundraising, are we are seeing the start of a turf war?

Could it be that, with the Charity Commission’s income cut in half and his staff reduced from 600 to 300, Shawcross now sees a way to restore the moribund organisation’s finances? The Fundraising Regulator will look to pay its way largely from the top fundraising charities and the Charity Commission may have taken notice of this and be interested in following suite.

If so, I would suggest that, with his additional warning that trustees must know all about their charities fundraising, he appoints some trustees to the Charity Commission that will list their fundraising expertise on the Commission’s website as none of the existing trustees appear to have the required experience. With the sector bringing in some £20 billion voluntary income this seems a very serious omission.

John Baguley, CEO, Group IFC