Trust in fundraisers: reflections on our annual accountability event

By Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the Fundraising Regulator

I am delighted that 100 senior representatives from charities and fundraising organisations joined us to reflect on our progress throughout the past year at our annual accountability event on 18 November. Trust in fundraisers was central to the morning’s discussions – an issue that has been a focal point of sector conversation.

Why trust?

This year has seen several reports published on the subject of trust, including our own research ‘The role of the Fundraising Regulator: public awareness, trust and expectations’. 

Through our research we wanted to begin a conversation with the fundraising sector about how together we can build trust in fundraising; whether you are a trustee, a senior fundraising manager or a fundraiser engaging with the public. 

I first touched on this subject at the time our research was published back in July. The event offered the opportunity to explore this issue in depth, while recognising that trust is a complex area. 

We know that a person’s trust in anything – be that fundraising, the care they receive, or financial services – is dependent on many factors. It isn’t static; trust can fluctuate and change as it’s ultimately based on a person’s experience and views, which is influenced by many variables. And so, whilst our research provides an insight into trust in fundraisers, it is a snapshot. 

Our role in building trust

At the event, I reflected on what I consider the Fundraising Regulator’s role to be. 

We play our part in upholding trust by carrying out our regulatory work effectively; publishing a public directory of registered organisations that is accurate and has integrity, setting standards for fundraising that uphold trust in fundraising, and supporting organisations to meet those standards by publishing guidance, sharing learning from complaints and answering enquiries. We also respond to concerns comprehensively and efficiently that are raised through our complaints process.

And because trust can be undermined by the actions of one as well as the actions of many, I believe there is a collective responsibility for the fundraising sector to learn from each other and improve fundraising practice where necessary.

The fundraising sector’s role in building trust

I asked those present to reflect on what I said and share what their organisations are currently doing to build trust and how we can support this work. We received a lot of insightful feedback, more than I can summarise in this blog. 

Several organisations saw their interactions with supporters as an opportunity to build trust, not only in their charity but in the sector as a whole. People shared insights into work they are doing with their supporters and they also identified ways for us to support fundraising organisations to meet the standards we set. 

For example, we heard that we should produce guidance that is more tailored to different groups who are involved in fundraising such as small charities, trustees or fundraising managers. We also heard that we should consider producing guidance that could be used for training or to assess compliance. And finally that we should consider producing e-modules or presentations. We also heard that we should share more information about good fundraising practice.

What’s next?

We appreciate the time people gave to come and listen to us and talk to us about trust. We will carefully consider all the feedback we heard, and use that to inform our future work. 

Looking ahead, the Fundraising Regulator will be broadening our focus to engage more with donors and the general public, including reviewing the badge, the Fundraising Promise and the Fundraising Preference Service

We are also turning our attention to reviewing the guidance we provide to both the sector and the public on our website and begin work on setting out our second strategic plan, which will take us to the year 2024.

The Board will be considering the feedback given in the New Year. The discussions from the event will be helpful when we consider our future work.