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Michael Grade says charities risk alienating the public

Michael Grade Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Michael Grade, a former BBC chairman, is the new head of the Fundraising Regulator

The charity sector risks "alienating the good will of the British public" unless it pays more attention to how it raises money, a regulator's head says.

Lord Grade, who chairs the new Fundraising Regulator, told the BBC that trustees were not monitoring charities' fundraising departments and they had to take full responsibility.

Charities have faced questions over their fundraising tactics.

Data sharing and commercial tie-ups have also come under the spotlight.

Lord Grade, who has held executive positions at ITV and Channel 4, was appointed as chairman of the Fundraising Regulator following the death of Britain's oldest poppy seller, Olive Cooke, last year.

The Fundraising Regulator will replace the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) this summer. The FRSB was criticised for not tackling complaints from the public about charities.

Lord Grade told Radio 4's You and Yours: "This regulator will be independent, although it's paid for by the charity sector, we will own the code of practice, the complaints procedure, and we will work very closely with the Charity Commission."

Closer eye

The 50 biggest charities, according to income, have been asked to contribute £15,000 start-up costs to the new regulator, but some charities are still mulling over the funding.

Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said: "I don't know what I'm going to get, I don't know how that's going to add value to existing regulation."

In response, Lord Grade said: "Even if the RNIB didn't join, which I think is unlikely... they will still be regulated by us.

"What she gets out of it, is what all the charities get out of it, which is a much closer eye on the behaviour of charities who've misbehaved in the past, and that will restore long-term sustainable confidence in the British public."

Radio 4's You and Yours has been reporting on complaints from listeners who feel pressurised by charity fundraising.

Barbara Smith, 88, from Leamington Spa, donates to several charities and has noticed an increasing amount of contact from them asking for her to donate more.

She said: "There been a remarkable increase in the number of appeals I'm getting from charities. I want to be a person who decides what I give. They must have thought I would feel beholden to them. That is their technique."

'Big sea-change'

In the autumn, a new Fundraising Preference Service will come into force, which allows consumers to opt out of getting letters and phone calls from charities if they feel they receive too many. Lord Grade hopes this will help protect elderly and vulnerable people.

He said: "It will put the consumer in charge of what material they want to receive, what material they don't want to receive, and we are working through the practicalities of that. It will be a big sea-change."

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations led the review into charity fundraising, which recommended a new regulator and Fundraising Preference Service.

Karl Wilding, its policy director, said: "It's clear that some charities took their eye off the ball in what they were doing in fundraising. They had the best intentions, but the means they used weren't right.

"I think charities have had a big wake-up call and are doing a lot to change how they work for the better. It's really important to them that they can demonstrate that they're worthy of the public's trust. Part of this is having the new Fundraising Regulator, so we can be seen to be held to high standards."

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