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Consultation on the charity digital code – response from the Fundraising Regulator

In September 2018, we responded to the Steering Group of organisations consulting on the Charity Digital Code of Practice.

The Digital Code aims to support charities of all sizes, budgets or causes in progressing with digital, focusing on the principles and best practice as a practical tool for charities to identify what they are doing well in digital and any gaps they need to address. You can find the published Digital Code here.

Our response

The Fundraising Regulator

The Fundraising Regulator is the voluntary regulator of all fundraising undertaken by or on behalf of charitable, philanthropic and benevolent organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our role includes maintaining and developing the Code of Fundraising Practice and investigating complaints from members of the public about fundraising practice where these cannot be resolved by the charities themselves.

Background & Scope

We welcome the idea of establishing a set of principles to support charities and their governing bodies to enable them to benchmark progress in digital, and to inform decision making in this area.

We support work undertaken to develop principles to assist charities in making the most of digital. Digital is a constantly evolving field, and it is important that charities are able to make the most of this. Setting a flexible set of principles based on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ will therefore be a valuable resource for charities in the present, whilst remaining adaptable to future developments in digital.

Your Code references Section 9 of the Code of Fundraising Practice. As stated in person, we would find it valuable to maintain an open dialogue to ensure that our Code remains relevant and up-to-date, and that the two documents align as far as is practicable.

In developing our response to the proposed Code, we think that greater clarity would be welcome in relation to the following issues:

  • Your Code is described as ‘an overview of the key areas that charities need be aware of in digital’ focused on ‘the how and why, not the more granular what, when and where’. It is also described as ‘a consistent framework for the sector to work towards’. Given the high-level organisational view that this Code takes, we feel that a title such as ‘Digital Principles’, ‘Charity Digital Best Practice’, or ‘Charity Digital Framework’ would more accurately describe the content, as well as helping to avoid confusion about how it aligns with existing codes of practice within the sector, such as those for fundraising and governance.

Who is it for?

  • This section states that the Code is for ‘charities registered in England, Wales and Scotland’, however, we are unclear as to why registered charities in Northern Ireland are not included. We recommend that this is amended to include the whole of the UK, or if there is a reason for excluding Northern Ireland, that this is explained in the introduction.

How should it be used?

  • In this section you allude to other legal requirements that may be relevant to a charity’s digital activity, using GDPR as an example. We feel that it would be helpful to provide a list of the key legal documents that organisations will need to be aware of when working in the digital sphere (while caveating that this is not exhaustive).
  • A helpful list of other Codes to be aware of is included. We would recommend the addition of the CAP Code to this list for the benefit of organisations using digital for advertising and/or direct marketing.

Principle 2 – User led

  • Broadly, we feel that this section needs to have more of a focus on donors and potential donors within the scope of the principle. While we appreciate that charities have a legal duty to their beneficiaries, donors and potential donors are also a key consideration from a fundraising perspective.
  • Under the ‘Accessibility’ subheadings (for both large and small charities), it would be useful to direct users to guidance from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on accessibility.

Principle 4 – Strategy

  • The ‘Digital Inclusion’ section here makes reference to ensuring that ‘beneficiaries who aren’t online should be offered alternatives where necessary’. We would recommend the addition of donors to this, as digital fundraising will likely form a key part of many charities digital strategies.

Section 6 – Managing Risk and Ethics

  • Risk management and ethics are very different areas especially where charity governance is concerned. On this basis, we recommend splitting Ethics out as its own standalone section. 
  • The sub-section on data could be improved if it signposted to ICO guidance. We would recommend reducing this section to state that ‘Data must be processed in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018. You can find guidance from the ICO here.’ This would mitigate the risk of charities reading the two points in this Code and disregarding the rest of their obligations with regard to personal data.

Glossary

  • The glossary would benefit from a short introductory sentence acknowledging that the definitions are meant within the context of this Code.
  • Accessibility – The definition of accessibility in relation to digital does not stop at disabilities. Somebody without a recognised ‘disability’ could still have accessibility problems with technology (e.g. somebody with a moderate visual impairment who needs larger font, or somebody with mild dyslexia who needs a high-contrast version of a website would not always be counted as having a disability in law). On this basis, we suggest amending this to ‘additional needs’.
    • This definition should also include a line to reference the definition for ‘digital inclusion’ to acknowledge the implications of this on accessibility.
  • API – The example given in this definition could be more applicable to a charity context, such as the use of an online giving platform’s API as a charity’s online donation page.
  • User Journeys – Suggest amending ‘User journeys can also cover a longer period when people need support, such as how a cancer charity can help beneficiaries at different stages of their illness’ to ‘Within the context of a charity’s work, user journey can refer to the period during which a beneficiary needs support, such as how a cancer charity can help beneficiaries at different stages of their illness.