Get clued up on the new fundraising reporting requirements
Whether you produce a separate trustees' annual report or a document combining fundraising activities and finances with case studies and achievements, you need to be aware of the new fundraising rules in force.
Larger charities that fundraise from the public and have accounts audited now need to include extra information about fundraising in their trustees' annual report. This aims to help organisations demonstrate their commitment to protecting the public, including vulnerable people, from poor fundraising practices.
These changes were introduced to the fundraising sections of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 on 1 November 2016. If your charity's gross income is less than £1m or your total assets are less than £3.26 million and your gross income less than £250,000, these requirements will currently not affect you.
What does this mean for your organisation? What information do you need to include? What tone works best? We've broken down the nuts and bolts, and spoken to three charities to find out their views.
Are you complying?
If the new requirements affect your charity, you need to include statements about:
- approach to fundraising
- work with, and oversight of, any commercial participators/professional fundraisers
- fundraising conforming to recognised standards
- monitoring of fundraising carried out on your behalf
- fundraising complaints
- protection of the public, including vulnerable people, from unreasonably intrusive or persistent fundraising approaches, and undue pressure to donate.
For more information, you can read the Charity Commission and Fundraising Regulator's joint FAQs and Charity fundraising: a guide to trustee duties (CC20).
What does this mean for the sector?
The new reporting requirements have met with a positive response from the three charities we spoke to — each of which has measures in place to protect donors.
Rethink Mental Illness' associate director for fundraising and supporter engagement, Emma Malcolm, says:
We welcome the fact we need to report on additional information. It's a positive step forward. It's protecting the people who we work with.
"The new rules are in-line with some of the work we've already carried out. We moved to fully opt-in, in June 2016, and have a fundraising promise explaining how we look after our existing and potential donors.
Mencap has also introduced measures to protect donors. This includes launching a new website that allows supporters to choose their preferences for communications.
Gerard Cousins, director of marketing and engagement, says:
"We agree that the regulations need to protect the public, including vulnerable people, and we are doing everything we can to ensure our supporters are happy with the communications they receive from us. We want to use the new requirements as a strong internal challenge to check we are being as transparent as possible."
Oxfam GB's deputy director of fundraising, Nicola Tallet, says Oxfam already has policies and initiatives in place to provide "donors with open and honest information".
What we're being asked to be honest and open about are things that are in place already. It's about being transparent and helping people to understand the inside of Oxfam. The recent launch of the MyOxfam app is one of the big steps we've taken to be more transparent.
Check your language
As with all charity communications, it's important to think about your audience when producing your annual report. You need to use the right tone and language when communicating the new fundraising statements.
Rethink’s Emma Malcolm says that it's important charities use accessible language and speak with donors in a way they find easy to understand.
It's not about smoke and mirrors. It's about saying this is what we've done this year, this is why we've done it and this has been the implications. We'll be thinking carefully about our wording, making sure we're talking in plain English.
Mencap’s Gerard Cousins agrees that accessibility is key. He explains:
As an organisation supporting people with learning disabilities, we pride ourselves on making sure all of our communications, including our annual report, are as accessible as possible. We think that's good practice no matter who your audience is.
Also the focus shouldn't be on dry, technical information. Oxfam GB’s Nicola Tallett says you need to demonstrate the impact of your fundraising work to show supporters they are making a difference.
Rather than being heavy about regulation in our trustees' annual report, we want to engage our audiences by helping them to understand that by supporting Oxfam they're having an impact on the world.
Mencap’s Gerard Cousins adds that "donating to charity is a great thing" and it's important to celebrate that and show donors the difference their support is making.
Working with your fundraising colleagues
Communications teams play an integral role in the work of charities, and it's no different when it comes to your annual report.
Oxfam GB’s Nicola Tallett says:
Our communications and fundraising teams have weekly meetings where we talk about all of the messages going out and how we integrate them. When it's time to work on the trustees' annual report, the fundraising team will provide the content that is regulated by the Charities Act. Then our communications team will embed this information into the wider messages of Oxfam's work.
Rethink’s Emma Malcolm adds that "collaboration" is needed when producing the annual report.
Without good communications, you don't have good fundraising. They are so intrinsically linked. Our fundraising and communications teams work closely, as each brings something the other doesn't.