Can you spare a few pence for the regulator?

The announcement by the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations that there should be a new organisation to regulate the fundraising activities of charities was paradoxical in a sector supposedly grounded in voluntary action and philanthropy. Sir Stuart Etherington and three members of the House of Lords recently authored a review in the wake of goings-on deemed to have been sharp practices by certain well-known charities in persuading some people to part with donations.

One of the report’s recommendations is to have a levy on charities’ fundraising to pay for such a new regulator – the Fundraising Regulator.

Apart from anything else, in 'austerity Britain’ asking charities to fork out to fund such a thing is surely not on. Charities already get criticism for not spending enough on their stated aims, whether that perception is justified or not.

I can see it now:

"£1 in the tin for the Good Cause and don't forget the extra 34 pence to help the deserving regulator."

(Director’s note: cut to stock video of 87 administrators slaving away over iPads in a modern office - with appropriately sad musical soundtrack?)

Instead of reaching for the quango toolbox, just fix whatever the problems are. There are enough laws and codes of practice to assist in that. There is also the Charity Commission, for example. Then again, its chair has been quoted as saying:

‘"I think it is inevitable that the sector will have to assume much more of the responsibility for funding its regulator," he said. "It happens in many, many other parts of society and there is no reason why it should not happen in this one."’

So that’s all right then.

All that seems to typify a mindset all too common among quangocrats; the public has to pay for something that it (the public) decides to do voluntarily so that some superfluous bureaucrats can come along and charge the aforementioned volunteers (the public) to tell them whether they are doing it properly. Marvellous piece of job creation.

This country needs another public regulator for this like a hole in the proverbial. How much more effort has to be expended on box-ticking and draining resources from useful voluntary effort? Let alone in creating at least two regulators in place of one.


Geraint Day is a trustee of two charities and co-operative sector activist but has not sought permission to write the above from any nascent quango that might want to vet volunteered expressions of opinion on charities.