Policy & Politics News
Charity Insight Contributor
Published 22 July 2011

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) will lobby to ensure “business interests”

are exercised responsibly and sustainably, regardless of what members think.

In his speech at the PFRA AGM on Tuesday 21 June, Michael Naidu, chair of the regulatory association, reminded members that it is not a trade association, but is here to regulate face-to-face (F2F) fundraising. As such, it is not in business to solely represent their interests.

Source: PFRA

For non-members of the PFRA but have an interest in F2F, you can read the full transcript of his speech here:

"Thank you to all of our heads of functions for their reports of activities done in the past year and giving a taster of some the work they will be doing in the coming year to rise to some of the challenges we face.

And there are certainly some challenges ahead. Clearly, the biggest of these is the review of the Charities Act 2006.

Toby Ganley has already explained that our site management agreements have been structured to be compliant with Part 3 of the Act in the expectation that this would already have been implemented by now.

Toby has also explained what we will be proposing when the review of the Act begins later this year.

We have worked too hard from the moment a Charities Bill was first mooted in 2003 to let the gains we made with CA06 to slip away. We will still push for the main components of the licensing regime to be implemented in full because the status quo with councils and charities trying to interpret century-old legislation is unsustainable.

At the very least, we will ask the OCS to give us a clear statement that they are committed to the principle of self-regulation of street F2F and that they are committed to the model of licensing contained in CA06.

It is a challenge to be sure. But we have faced this challenge before and we proved we could rise to it. I have no doubt that we will rise to it again.

But this challenge raises questions about how the PFRA is perceived both by our regulatory partners, and other external stakeholders such as the media, and how our members expect us to behave and what you expect PFRA to do on your behalf.

Without addressing this question, I do not think we will be able to meet these challenges and come through them with the outcomes we desire.

In short, I want to state very clearly that PFRA is not a trade association.

We are not here solely to represent your interests or to represent all of your interests. We are here to represent some of your interests: principally the interest that not only is your chosen method of fundraising - F2F - seen to be regulated effectively, transparently and independently, but that it also is regulated effectively, transparently and independently.

We cannot necessarily do this if we are perceived as always arguing for what our members want every time there is conflict between what our stakeholders and our members want.

Our biggest challenge by far in the next year will be the review of the Charities Act 2006. Toby and I have already said what needs to be done.

Toby has explained that we are in effect asking councils to delegate their licensing and diary responsibilities to us in the legislative vacuum. If they are going to do that - if we are to persuade them to do that - then they will have to trust us.

We are not going to get what we want regarding CA06 if those with the power to grant this to us do not trust us to be able to deliver it. And they won't trust us if all they think we are going to do is fight on behalf of our members to get as much space as possible with as many 'chuggers' as possible on as many days of the week as possible.

Lobbying to maximise the business interests of our members is what a trade association does.

Lobbying to ensure business interests are exercised responsibly and sustainably is what a regulator does.

And that is what the PFRA not only intends to do but be seen to do.

In the course of the coming year and beyond, PFRA will be working to ensure that this vital method of donor acquisition is regulated sustainably, with access agreements that ensure that our members will be able to find new donors on the street five years from now, and not just help our members get in as many donors as they can in each successive financial year.

As a fundraising director investing now in this medium, I am investing in the anticipation that the agency I contract has a sufficiently robust and long-term business plan to still be able to provide donors for me in 2016.

Increasing this level of professionalism entails several things. It entails first an understanding from you that:

  • When we negotiate site agreements, you might not always get the volume that you want
  • When there is a media attack on face-to-face fundraising, we won't always be able to leap to your defence
  • If you do not abide by our diary and allocations procedures, which as I have explained are delegated to us from local authorities, then you might not get the allocation you asked for in that period, or if you break site agreements, you will be told to leave the site.

But the other side of this is that we need to ensure that we give you an equivalent level of professionalism in the services we provide you.

This is why the PFRA embarked on a full HR review of the secretariat's operations earlier this year, which was aimed to ensure that your needs as members are being met by the right skill-sets.

This is why we have revisited the five-year strategy that the board agreed last year to begin to turn this into a full business plan, which the relevant heads of functions will develop with their respective committees.

This is also why I am announcing that the PFRA is embarking on a governance review or our articles of association. This has two main objectives.

First, we need to bring our governing documents into line with the Companies Act 2006 - another CA06, you'll notice.

Second, it will allow us for the first time to a pay an honorarium to an external, independent chair.

I believe this is essential in promoting our independence and will help us achieve the strength and trust we need in driving through our agenda for the review of the Charities Act 2006. It gives us added credibility when we are negotiating with gatekeepers and parliamentarians. When we are sitting down with the Office of the Civil Society to facilitate the long-term access for street F2F that everyone in this room wants, we will have much more credibility if the person leading the negotiations is not working for one of the organisations that stands to gain most from these negotiations.

We are in the process of drafting new articles of association with our solicitors, Bates, Wells and Braithwaite. These will of course need to be put to the membership for a vote.

I am therefore announcing that PFRA will be holding an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on September 1, 2011, at a venue yet to be confirmed, though possibly here at the South Bank University. The draft articles of association will be distributed to members 21 days previously and members will be able to vote by post or proxy if they are unable to attend.

Full details will be circulated to members in due course.

This impending review of our governance is the reason that no board elections have been held this year. We felt that it was more appropriate to complete this review and then elect members to the board that would operate under our new articles of association.

I know that the PFRA has traditionally been an advocate for F2F. However, we now need to do this less and less. F2F has risen in just 15 years from being an untested new type of fundraising to being the donor acquisition method of choice for many charities. Many charities have transformed their annual income - and so transformed the services they can give their beneficiaries.

The case for 'selling' face-to-face is made. It works and everyone in the charity sector knows it works. The PFRA does not need to argue that now on your behalf and we are going to step back from that. The continued case for face-to-face needs to be made by you, the charities using it.

We don't need to protect your right to conduct face-to-face today because you can do it today.

We need to fight for your right to carrying on doing face-to-face in the future. To do that we need to look to the future. I hope that you, our members, will agree and that all of you too will look to the future with a shared vision of the PFRA as an independent self-regulator that can enshrine the sustainability of F2F for the next five years and beyond."


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