Theresa Shearer: The life-changing impact of Scotland’s charities

Charity fundraising has been proven to transform lives in Scotland
Charity fundraising has been proven to transform lives in Scotland
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Scotland’s charity sector is world class, and something every single one of us should be proud of, whether we work in the sector, or benefit from it. The impact of charitable fundraising every day, in every community across Scotland, is genuinely life-changing.

Scotland’s charity sector is world class, and something every single one of us should be proud of, whether we work in the sector, or benefit from it. The impact of charitable fundraising every day, in every community across Scotland, is genuinely life-changing.

But 2015 was a difficult year for organisations fundraising in Scotland. High profile media coverage of poor fundraising practice in the UK came as a shock not only to the public, but also to the vast majority of those fundraising organisations and many in the charity sector.

There was little evidence this was a significant problem in Scotland, but the issues warranted further consideration to design a proactive approach to Fundraising Governance that would maintain public trust in the sector in Scotland.

At the behest of Scottish Government, SCVO commissioned a review into self-regulation of fundraising in Scotland.

This identified a wayward fundraising culture and lack of ownership by charities of fundraising regulation. Additionally, there was a perception that fundraising practice lacked the previous levels of public confidence and that, in some instances, poor practice had developed.

The review proposed three options to address donor dissatisfaction and strengthen fundraising regulation in Scotland. The Scottish Fundraising Working Group, which I am the Chair of, was created and tasked with three key objectives:

• An appraisal for the three main options for fundraising regulation in Scotland

• An engagement process for eliciting the views of the third sector, public and donors

• A transparent and legitimate process making a final decision

The Working Group’s vision was to create a fundraising regulatory system for Scotland that would:

• Command confidence in charity fundraising

• Inspire public trust; and promote good fundraising

To fully understand the views of everyone involved, we needed an extensive period of engagement. This was done through online survey, consultation and face-to-face meetings with the public and the sector.

Support for a new regulation system in Scotland from fundraising organisations themselves is essential if the sector wishes to continue to raise charitable funds in a transparent manner that meets the public’s expectations of their charities.

It was critical during the review therefore not to lose sight of the ultimate beneficiaries of fundraising charities, and to recognise not only the importance of the beneficiary to the organisations, but also to the donors, in terms of recognising the value of the charitable work they support.

The Scottish public, Scottish charities and members of the Scottish Fundraising Working Group contributed considerably to the development of the new system, which has also benefited from the involvement of Scottish Government and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, OSCR, as observers. It has also been invaluable to have had a close working relationship with the Fundraising Regulator during this period.

The results of the research were unanimous, choosing a system of enhanced fundraising regulation for Scotland that meets our original vision.

It is my hope that the recommendations of this review will create a strong framework for charitable fundraising in Scotland to flourish in a climate of public trust in its principles, and its proven and transparent capacity to transform lives.

• Theresa Shearer is chairwoman, Scottish Fundraising Working Group and CEO, Enable Scotland