Gathering intelligence and providing support through self-reporting fundraising incidents

By Catherine Orr, Head of Casework at the Fundraising Regulator

During this year’s annual event, I announced the launch of the Fundraising Regulator’s self-reporting pathway. The pathway enables organisations to report fundraising incidents where there may have been a breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code). The information we gather through these reports will help us to better protect the public through proactive action and intervene where necessary to support fundraising organisations to manage any arising risks. We also intend to anonymously share key learning to support the wider fundraising sector.

Why self-report?

Ultimately, we hope organisations will only need to self-report in rare circumstances. If fundraisers follow the code and our accompanying guidance, and adequately handle complaints at a local level, there should be little need for regulatory intervention. Nevertheless, things don’t always go to plan. 

I encourage all fundraising organisations to use this pathway if they identify a fundraising incident that may pose a potential risk to the public, the charity sector or public confidence in fundraising more generally. We can help you to put things right where necessary or confirm that you have taken the right action to address the incident. Sharing this intelligence also helps us to build a complete picture of the fundraising landscape, so that we can develop resources to benefit the entire sector.

Working with organisations that self-report

Our casework team will provide specific support where needed to help improve practices and minimise the risk of an incident happening again. Sometimes it will be too early to identify learning but working collaboratively means we will understand the steps an organisation is taking to make sure it is code compliant.

We anticipate it’s only on rare occasions we might need to carry out an investigation following a self-report. We will deal with these proportionately and acknowledge that by sharing the information, an organisation has demonstrated a desire to put things right.

How we developed the pathway

Throughout the past five years, organisations have contacted us when they recognise something has gone wrong with their fundraising, such as a data breach or failed campaign. We used these examples as a starting point to explore how to make self-reporting as effective and efficient as possible. 

Our primary concern was to make sure that reporting did not add an unnecessary burden for fundraisers. We wanted to make it as easy to use and streamlined as possible, while capturing the right information for our team to properly consider the issues.

A sample group of charities tested the pathway as we developed it, and it was positive to hear that they found the information requested reasonable. We refined our approach in response to their comments and hope the result is clear and straightforward to use. We will continue to improve the pathway as more cases are reported; if you have any feedback more generally, we’d like to hear from you.

We recognise that organisations may already be reporting to other regulators. So, we have made sure that the way we request information is in line with that of other bodies, to avoid duplication as far as possible.

Sharing wider learning and best practice

The complaints we receive from the public are only part of the picture of what is happening in the sector, so by self-reporting organisations will also enable wider learning. By sharing intelligence anonymously, we will help others to learn from the causes of fundraising incidents and understand how the sector is resolving the issues that arise. 

In turn, this will enable us to develop best practice and make sure charitable fundraising continues to be open, honest and respectful so that the public has confidence in fundraising and charitable fundraising can thrive.

For more information about who should report, when to report and how we will respond, please refer to the self-reporting pages on our website.