What could a new Code of Fundraising Practice mean for legacies?

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The Fundraising Regulator’s latest consultation is live and we are keen to hear what you think about how their proposals for the Code of Fundraising Practice (Code) could impact legacy fundraising. As the consultation is quite lengthy and covers many areas, we’ve pulled out some key points for legacy fundraising.  

Any changes to the Code could influence how legacy fundraising is regulated and how charities approach best practice. So, we encourage you to feed into the consultation and to let us know your thoughts on the proposals, particularly when it comes to the clause for recognition of a legacy, detailed below.

A new principals-based approach

One of the biggest changes the Regulator is exploring is whether moving to a principals-based approach could make the Code more streamlined. This wouldn’t remove any requirements or expectations on charitable fundraising, rather it would strip out superfluous details or duplications. The example they give for legacies is that the three standards that outline how a fundraiser must behave when interacting legacy donors (including very specific requirements like reminding the donor of why you are having a meeting) would be merged into one rule that focuses on being respectful towards donors. You can see the exact wording of this here as well as an outline on how legacy standards would be grouped together here.

This could be a positive step towards making the Code more user-friendly and allowing for more flexibility, so legacy fundraisers can tailor their approach to sensitive conversations around the donor. That said, across the fundraising community there are questions on whether this approach could lead to different interpretations of the rules, which would in turn make it harder to manage donors’ expectations and how the Regulator will approach adjudication. In partnership with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, we will be working closely with the regulator to make sure there are plans in place to support charities and the public through this transition. We would love to hear any suggestions from our members on how to do this.

Proposed amends to legacy standards

There is only one proposed amend to standards relating to legacies, which is rule 15.77. This rule requires fundraising to respect the testator or estate’s wishes regarding recognition of a legacy. The Regulator recognises that there are some circumstances when a charity might not be able to agree to this and that it may be in the organisation’s best interest to decline the gift, which is currently not allowed. With this in mind, they are proposing that charities be able to consider the reputational risks of accepting a legacy with recognition requirements.

There are arguments for and against this. Some people think this change would align the rule more closely with the Charity Commission’s guidance on carrying out due diligence - which states that in some circumstances a charity might not be able to meet the conditions of a gift and therefore should refuse the donation. On the other hand, others think that the Charity Commission’s position on this is already clear, and as such there is no need to change the rule. With this in mind, we are keen to hear which side of the fence you sit on.

What's more, are there any other clauses in the existing legacy Code, which you feel need updating or changing?

Plans to expand the Code to include new technology

Over the past few years, we’ve seen charities embrace technology to build meaningful connections with donors. At the moment, the Code doesn’t cover some of these areas, so the Regulator is asking whether there should be specific requirements for a range of different technologies and fundraising methods.

Social media is one such area, which has become a powerful tool for connecting with Will-writing audiences. But how should this be addressed within the Code? There is one line of thought that the new ‘principles-based approach’ could treat social media like any another communications channel. Meanwhile, others think that it would be beneficial to incorporate specific guidance - as social media has certain unique features, such as donors being able to see each other's feedback in the comments section. In the current proposal, it’s unclear how this will be addressed, but if you have a view, this makes it all the more important to share your thoughts through the consultation.

Tell us what you think

We would love to hear our members’ thoughts on how the areas above (and any other proposals in the consultation) could change best practice in legacy fundraising. Depending on your preference, you can either fill in this quick survey or set up a time for a 1-1 chat by emailing info@rememberacharity.org.uk.