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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Self-regulation of charity fundraising: will it work?

Whilst the public supports UK charities with generous donations to help them provide a huge benefit to the community, many charities – some of them household names – have increasingly maximised their fundraising using methods which the public find unacceptable. It appears from the way that some charities act that they consider their admirable aim of raising funds to help their beneficiaries somehow justifies aggressive or other dubious means of fundraising by those charities.

How has this come about?

It might be deliberate policy of trustees to fundraise in that way. It might be that whilst charity trustees do not decide that their charity should act in that way, their fundraising staff or volunteers choose to be “over enthusiastic” or cut corners. Charities often engage commercial businesses as contractors to carry out fundraising for them. They are often paid on a results basis, and they may be incentivised by this to act in an “over enthusiastic” manner or worse.

Whether it is the charity’s staff, volunteers or its contractors which are at fault, it remains the responsibility of the trustees to supervise them and to avoid  unacceptable fundraising practices.  It is understandable that charities want to maximise fundraising, and many of them have to compete with other charities for support from the public but the public is entitled to expect charities to use generally acceptable methods and to operate in a way which conforms to clear standards. However, even if one leaves aside the issues about moral or legal acceptability of certain fundraising methods, use of questionable methods by charities may be counter-productive for them: it tends to lead to public disapproval of those methods, charities lose public trust and confidence, their reputation suffers, and the public becomes more reluctant to donate to them. So, just in terms of pragmatism, in the long term it is therefore in a charity’s overall best interests to adopt acceptable fundraising methods.

Public and media complaints

A survey carried out by Harris Interactive for the Third Sector website early in 2016 found that recent stories in the media about charities’ fundraising methods had made 22% of the public much less likely or slightly less likely to donate, and amongst those over 55, this rose to 35%.

A great deal of media criticism has been directed at some charities’ fundraising practices in recent years, particularly since the case of Olive Cooke who died in May 2015 after being distressed and overwhelmed by requests from charities by post and phone for donations. As a result the Fundraising Standard Board investigated the issues raised by complaints received by the Board, and it made a number of findings.

Over a third of the complaints related to approaches by charities being made to elderly people; it was felt that some charities targeted elderly people as a “soft touch”.  Significantly over 40% of complaints concerned the frequency of requests for donations by particular charities. 70% of complaints related to direct mail activity. A substantial percentage of complaints related to the issue of whether consent to be contacted by a charity had been freely given, for example many opt in / opt out statements were difficult to read. A number of complainants also cited the fact that when they received a request by phone to donate, the script used by the charity during the call made it difficult for the recipient of the call to say “no” to donating. Also highlighted was the practice of charities sending free gifts with mail packs which recipents feel are a waste of the charity’s money and a means of inducing  guilt if the recipient does not donate.  Some people complained that despite being registered with the Mailing and Telephone Preference Services, they still received mail or calls from charities.  Another major concern of the Board was that some charities communicated with actual or potential donors using contact data which, without the knowledge or consent of those donors, had been passed to those charities by other charities or by commercial organisations.

Prior to the Board’s investigation about direct mail, email and phone contact with donors, there was also widespread criticism about the ubiquitous presence of (and sometimes intimidation by) so-called “chuggers”  – those engaged by a charity to approach potential donors in the streets to collect cash donations or sign up donors to donate by direct debit.

So,  what changes are being made?

The Harris Interactive survey found that there was a strong public appetite for tighter self-regulation of fundraising. As outlined below, controls on charity fundraising are now changing so that unacceptable fundraising practices will hopefully be eliminated or at least significantly reduced. All charities will now have to adopt acceptable means of fundraising.

The Fundraising Regulator was set up in response to recommendations made in September 2015 by the Cross-Party Review of Fundraising Regulation. 45 of the UK’s largest charities agreed to contribute to the start-up costs of the new Fundraising Regulator. As from 7th July 2016, the responsibility for regulating charity fundraising passed from the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) to this new body which is now responsible for the self-regulatory regime for fundraising. The new Fundraising Regulator will deal with all new complaints raised about charity fundraising. This new body also takes control of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice and the Public Fundraising Association’s Rule Book. For the first time, responsibility for all the different aspects of regulating fundraising will be centred in one organization. It will be able to take various steps in response to complaints which it upholds, including naming and shaming charities if it finds that they have not met the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.

The Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commission have recently signed an MOU which sets out the criteria to be met for the Regulator to refer complaints to the Commission. If a charity repeatedly fails to respond to the Regulator’s rulings, it will refer cases to the Commission so that it can consider whether there are serious shortcomings in the charity’s governance.

The Cross-Party Review hoped that this beefed up new self-regulatory regime would lead to significant improvements in the fundraising methods adopted by charities. However, the Review also considered that it might yet prove necessary to implement statutory regulation of charities’ fundraising practices. Parliament therefore amended the Charities Act 1992 to create a reserve legal power for the Government to make Regulations compelling charities to comply with the requirements of a specified regulator. Under the new voluntary system, it is not compulsory for charities to sign up to be bound by rulings of the Fundraising Regulator. If this voluntary regulation fails, there is now power under the 1992 Act to make Regulations requiring charities to sign up to abide by the requirements of the Fundraising Regulator. The Regulator could in future thereby be given more teeth. Alternatively, Regulations could pass full responsibility for fundraising regulation to the Charity Commission.

Will the changes work?

It remains to be seen whether the new system of self-regulation will work. Will there now be sufficient compliance by charities with the Code of Fundraising Practice on a voluntary basis, or do you think that the Government should have established statutory regulation now rather than wait to see how well the new improved self-regulatory system works?

6 Tell-Tale Signs Your Business Needs to Expand

Most successful entrepreneurs reach a point at which they need to consider expanding their business. This could mean taking on extra staff, updating equipment, bringing in new technology, or moving to larger premises.

However, there is always a balance to be struck between keeping a tight rein on finances and making the necessary investment to move your business to the next level. It can be tempting to put the decision off for as long as possible, but here are six tell-tale signs that expansion should be on the cards now:

1. Your Business Can’t Fulfil Customers’ Orders On Times

A major sign of the need for expansion is the inability to fulfil orders on time – particularly where these were previously easily deliverable. This can be an indicator that there is general pressure within your business’ processes, rather than issues with an individual order.

If these problems continue, both your business reputation and growth can be compromised. It could also mean competitors will take advantage, picking up orders that your business has turned away.

2. You and Your Staff Feel Swamped

You and your employees are working 10 to 12 hours a day just to stand still. You’re feeling pressured every time the phone rings. Workers are telling managers that their workload is problematic. If you do nothing in this situation, you risk losing employees and suffering from burnout yourself. Official statistics show the number of cases related to stress, depression, or anxiety in the workplace totalled 440,000 in 2014/15.

3. Cash Flow Is Suffering Because Payments Aren’t Being Chased

Managers are so busy delivering on the order book that they don’t have time to keep on top of chasing unpaid invoices. You may well notice that cash flow is suffering as a result. Half of start-up businesses fail within five years and cash flow issues are the biggest reason.

4. The Marketplace Is Changing

The introduction of new regulations, disruption from technological changes and changing market forces can all put an extra burden on you and your staff. As such, it may be necessary to take on a new employee in order to deal with various changes to the marketplace in which you operate.

5. Your Business’ Reputation Is Suffering

Three out of four customers say they spend more money when they get a good customer experience. So ensuring that you are able to meet – or exceed – client expectations can pay dividends in the long run.

The alarm bells should start ringing if you notice negative comments on social media or an increase in the number of complaints. If your business is losing customers, you need to act swiftly to prevent a downward spiral.

6. Your Business Feels Crammed into an Untidy Space

If you’re operating between piles of stock and paperwork, it’s time to take a look at bigger premises. If you’re operating from home, maybe you need to look at office space instead? If you have recently taken on more employees, does your current premises have the required welfare facilities to meet health and safety legislation? These are all considerations that need to be made before making the decision to move your business.

So, What Can You Do as Your Businesses Expands?

There are several steps which can be taken to aid with the process of expansion. Outsourcing a number of roles is an excellent method for relieving the burden on overworked employees. Typical areas businesses look for help with are accountancy, marketing, social media, and administration. Alternatively, you could train staff to perform multiple functions to ensure that workload is spread more evenly.

Could you expand into an adjacent unit or a larger unit on the same site? Getting larger premises is more straightforward if a business is dealing with the same landlord – and you don’t need to provide a new address to customers. Shared office space which can be hired by the day is a great option for start-up owners who have been operating from home.

How Can Simply-Docs Help?

Simply-Docs provides ready-to-use documents and legal contracts ideal for businesses, including employment and health & safety documents. To talk more about how we can help your business manage a change of premises, simply contact our friendly team today.

Could Flexible Working Hours Make Your Business More Profitable?

Flexible working is an increasingly popular trend, fuelled by changing social dynamics and the ability for many professionals to carry out their work from virtually any location with a Wi-Fi signal. It refers both to flexible patterns of work as well as to the choice of working remotely from home or elsewhere.

Flexible working is an attractive prospect for many employees who are parents with young children or have other caring responsibilities. Employers need to reasonably consider all requests for flexible working.

So what’s in it for your business? Isn’t it better to have your staff all in one place, somewhere you can manage them? Recent studies suggest not. Flexible working isn’t just about creating a pleasant atmosphere for your workers, or moving away from micro-management and presenteeism. In fact, you may well find that flexible working increases profitability in a number of ways:

Reduce Your Costs

A study by Vodafone UK has revealed that implementing flexible working could save UK businesses £34 billion. For example, hot-desking, where workers on different shifts share desks to maximise use of office space, can reduce rental costs. Businesses can save not only by renting less square footage but also in paying less for heating and lighting.

Improve Productivity and Customer Service

As there’s no commute involved for homeworkers, employees could potentially be available to work earlier or later. A study by IBM into their own alternative workplace programme revealed 87% of employees believed their productivity and effectiveness had improved since they started working from home.

However, employers must ensure homeworkers have an adequate and safe working space. For instance, implementing robust health and safety policies can avoid many problems which could otherwise be very costly in the long run.

Attract Better Quality Candidates for Jobs

The benefits of allowing flexibility at work means that a wider range of people are able to apply for positions – including parents who need time to look after young children or semi-retired workers. Consequently, your business could gain an advantage by being able to select candidates with as wide a skill set as possible. Accessibility to a wider pool of potential employees can give your business the edge and ensure that the best candidates don’t end up working for a competitor.

Improve Staff Loyalty

Flexible working boosts morale and reduces the risk of stress and burnout. A happier workforce is less likely to have a high turnover of staff and all the associated costs. On the other hand, failure to offer flexible working arrangements may also mean that employees take their skills and experience to a rival company with a more flexible approach.

Future Trends

Acas notes that “New technology has … accelerated the opportunities for people to work from home and to stay in touch with colleagues and the emergence of a … ‘4G’ workforce has provided an extra dimension to the need for flexibility.” As the technology revolution gathers pace, it may be time to consider introducing or formalising flexible working policies to future-proof your organisation.

Simply-Docs has a wide selection of ready-to-use document templates to help small businesses implement flexible working while reducing costs – including contract amendments, and flexible and home working documents. To talk more about how we can help your business manage a more flexible approach to working, simply contact our friendly team today