The Fundraising Institute Australia has begun conducting random spot checks by telephone, mail, email and in person to ensure its members comply with its new code, which came into force on January 1.

Borrowing the common ‘mystery shopper’ technique from the hospitality, retail and franchise sectors, late last year the FIA recruited a ‘code monitor’ who will check fundraising staff are adhering to the code in their dealings with the public.

Along with conducting spot checks, the FIA will also provide a web-based training program to educate fundraisers about their obligations to the public.

In a statement, FIA CEO Rob Edwards said he believes occasional checks will help to lift standards across the sector and improve compliance with the code, which in turn will boost public confidence in the sector and make the general public more willing to donate.

“The new Code lends itself to this kind of proactive monitoring. It contains a number of specific commitments by fundraisers in how they must treat donors, beneficiaries and suppliers,” Edwards said.

“For example, the new Code says: ‘Members will make readily available, on request, information about the charitable cause for which they are fundraising, including its objects and how it intends to use the donated funds.’

“The Code Monitor may choose to test compliance with this requirement by simply asking a fundraiser, who is making calls on behalf of a charity, if they are able to provide this information.”

While the FIA previously relied on a complaints-based process to monitor complaints, Edwards said the new proactive approach would help to address issues before problems arise.

“One problem with a complaints-driven process is that you are always reacting to something that has gone wrong. By then, the damage has been done. This new approach helps prevent things from going wrong in the first place,” Edwards said.

“If we find evidence of non-compliance we will, in the first instance, privately inform the member of the breach. It is not our intention to embarrass any member by publicly reporting on a breach occurrence. It is only in cases of ongoing or wilful non-compliance that the code authority would publicly sanction the member,” said Mr. Edwards.

With over 1500 members, Fundraising Institute Australia is the largest representative body for the $12.5 billion fundraising sector which is supported by some 14.9 million Australians. FIA members include charities and other fundraising not-for-profits operating domestically and internationally as well as the organisations and professionals that provide services to them. 

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