Back in the summer last year, I wrote a piece for ehospice on the intense media scrutiny of the fundraising practices of a handful of national charities, the swift response from the government in proposing dramatic amendments to the Charities Bill and what it all meant for hospices.
Since then, we’ve received the Etherington Review and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has released its findings into charity fundraising regulation and the way in which trustees govern fundraising.
In between, there have been scathing TV programmes, more newspaper reports into charity fundraising and government reports into the failings of Kid’s Company.
It can be easy to switch off from the barrage of reports and stories in recent months and think that all of this is nothing to do with the hospice sector. After all, the main problem is with the fundraising practices of large, high profile national charities, isn’t it?
The trouble is, the media scrutiny of charities and the new fundraising regulations affect every charity in the UK, and the PACAC report makes grim reading for hospice trustee boards.
The PACAC report supports many of the proposals put forward by the Etherington Review. If you’re not aware of either of these reports, you need to read them now. Your hospice board of trustees needs to be aware of the possible impact of these reports too.
The PACAC report puts the burden of responsibility for fundraising practice firmly at the door of charity trustees. Trustees need to know what fundraising methods are used and how the practices are governed and checked, especially when using any outside agencies for copywriting, mailing fulfilment, telephoning or canvassing for lottery tickets.
What does this mean for hospices?
It means that hospices need to ensure that they have room at the table for a trustee with experience of professional fundraising on its board – a trustee who organised one fundraising dinner twenty years ago really will not do.
It means that the board needs to have a senior fundraiser who regularly attends board meetings to answer questions and report on activity, progress and adherence to the fundraising regulations.
It means that the board and senior management team need to support each other. The management team needs to supply appropriate information on fundraising so that the board can be informed, make good decisions and back up its management team if push came to shove. After all, the burden of responsibility is placed at the feet of a group of volunteers – staff must enable the trustees to step up to the plate.
It means that if your board doesn’t have the right skills and specialisms to fulfil the heavy expectations of PACAC and Etherington, you need to do something about it now. There are plenty of free courses and guides available from NCVO and Hospice UK is offering a board development programme in conjunction with the charity experts from Cass Business School.
And it may mean you need to have a couple of uncomfortable conversations with those trustees not contributing sufficiently to your hospice.
It also means that your board needs to be reassured that the acquisition and management of supporter records and data meets all the regulatory requirements. I understand that this is the bit where eyes tend to glaze over, but believe me, this is the part that hospices absolutely must ensure is done correctly because the penalties are unbelievably serious.
However, there is always a danger with these reports that everyone gets a bit too anxious and risk averse. This should not be the course of action of our hospice sector. Hospices around the country need to remember that, in general terms, we are well regarded by our communities for the work we do in caring for them, and for the ways in which we build relationships with our communities to raise income.
We all need to remember too, that in curtailing existing fundraising activities or investment in future fundraising activities, we will be cutting off the money pipeline for our services. In the current fundraising climate, we can ill-afford to do this.
The way in which charities fundraise is about to change considerably. Since many of the UK’s hospices rely so heavily on voluntary income, every hospice needs to be prepared.
Perhaps a starting point for us all is to revisit our own hospice mission and values and ensure our fundraising practices reflect them. Next is to ensure our hospices have the right people with the right skills in place to carry out the fundraising operations – and the right people with the right skills in place to govern them.
Hospice UK members can access a briefing on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report and contact national hospice support manager Elizabeth Palfreman by email, or on 020 7520 8247, with any queries on fundraising regulation.
Hospice UK is also running a series of one-day workshops for hospice trustees to develop their understanding and awareness of the trustees’ role and responsibilities in running an effective hospice. Find out more about these events, Hospice trustees – ‘what you need to know’, on the Hospice UK website.