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The new regulation era: Who does what, why, and where

By Mark Higgitt | March 14, 2017

The build-up to the new era of fundraising regulation that will govern UK charities’ relationships with supporters has been challenging, to say the least.

A number of organisations have taken centre stage in the debate during the past couple of years.

As you continue to focus on meeting your legal obligations, and you put your protocols in place for managing supporter communication preferences for the years to come, here are the key players – with a brief explanation of the differing roles they play in your working lives.


Information Commissioner’s Office

The ICO is the UK’s independent authority with responsibility for upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

In short, the ICO polices the statutory requirements of the UK’s data protection laws.

With the European General Data Protection Regulation due to become law in the UK in May, 2018, charities are increasingly focussing on the issue of best practice.

We believe it’s wise to stay up-to-date with the ICO’s advice, in tandem with keeping abreast of the thoughts of the charity-specific Institute of Fundraising. Here are some useful links:


Fundraising Regulator

The Fundraising Regulator is the independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It was established, following the 2015 Etherington review of fundraising self-regulation, to strengthen the system of charity regulation and restore public trust in fundraising. Its role is to:

  • Set and promote the standards for fundraising practice
  • Investigate cases where fundraising practices have led to significant public concern
  • Adjudicate complaints from the public about fundraising practice, where these can’t be resolved by the charities themselves
  • Operate the Fundraising Preference Service – which went live on Thursday, July 6, 2017 – to enable individuals to manage their contact with charities
  • Recommend best-practice guidance, where poor fundraising practice is judged to have taken place, and take proportionate remedial action

Each of the donorflex Regional Training Days in March, 2017, included a healthy and informative debate on the question of preferences and compliance.

Like you, it’s a topic that’s increasingly gained our focus over the past two years as we’ve contemplated the shape and form of new donorflex’s enhanced functionality for managing preferences.

The donorflex team’s close talks with the Fundraising Regulator’s FPS project team, and the database developers at Syrenis, played a huge part in that development process.

For the very latest, we’d suggest you keep a regular eye on the Fundraising Regulator’s news feed, and register for news updates while you’re there.


Fundraising regulation in Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Fundraising Regulator is the independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Charities in Scotland are regulated differently.


Fundraising by charities only registered in Scotland is subject to Scottish charity law and the Scottish system of self-regulated fundraising through the Independent Panel.

Fundraising undertaken by charities registered in England and Wales and in Scotland, but where the lead regulator for the charity is the Charity Commission in England and Wales, is regulated by the Fundraising Regulator.

These arrangements follow the lead regulator model used by the Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) with cross-border charities.

The deciding factor as to which regulatory system will be used is the place where the charity is primarily registered, rather than where the fundraising takes place.

The Fundraising Regulator and the Independent Panel in Scotland will work closely together in proposing and considering amendments to the Code of Fundraising Practice.

For more information on OSCR, click the link.

Northern Ireland

At the time of writing, discussions on arrangements for fundraising regulation in Northern Ireland were expected to be taken in March, 2017.


Direct Marketing Association

At the heart of the new era of fundraising regulation is the question of consent – do you have an individual’s permission to send them your direct marketing communications?

The Direct Marketing Association is a membership organisation that gives best-practice guidelines, legal updates and a code that “puts the customer at the heart”.

It’s important for you to be aware of the Direct Marketing Association’s advice on best practice. These two links will help:


Institute of Fundraising

The Institute of Fundraising is the professional membership body for UK fundraising. It supports fundraisers through:

  • Leadership and representation
  • Best practice and compliance
  • Education and networking

The Institute of Fundraising’s website is a treasure trove of advice and guidance on the issues of regulation, compliance and best practice.

If you haven’t already done so, we’d strongly recommend that you visit the IOF website – and consider closening your ties by taking out membership, if you haven’t already done so. Here’s where we’d suggest you start: