Public divided on charging charities for charity regulation, new report finds

13th January 2016

  • Research by University of Kent for CFG finds public divided on whether charities should contribute to regulator.
  • Broad support by both regular and non-regular donors for a well-resourced and independent charity regulator.
  • CFG warns against forcing charities to pay for regulation based on perceived public demand and calls on government to put more investment into effective regulation. 

Research carried out by the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent on behalf of the Charity Finance Group has found strong support for a well-resourced, independent charity regulator, but could not identify a consensus as to who should pay for this regulation. 

The report, 'What regulation, who pays? Public Opinion and Charity Regulation', presents the findings of four focus groups with a representative sample of regular and non-regular donors (including non-donors). 

The findings demonstrate that whilst there was support among both regular and non-regular donors for charities making some contribution towards the cost of the regulator, a significant number felt that the Charity Commission should be funded wholly through taxation and a very few felt that charities should be the sole funders. The key disincentive for a wholly charity-funded regulator was the threat that this would pose to the Charity Commission’s independence. 

The report shows that when participants spoke of charities contributing to the cost of their regulation, the numbers that they spoke of were relatively small – in some cases as little as £5. 

The research also explored the potential impact of charities contributing to the Commission’s funding might have on donor behaviour. It found that participants did not think it would stop them from donating. However, this finding cannot be verified without evidence of actual donor behaviour. 

Furthermore, the report concludes that any contributions made by charities would only be tolerated by the public if the government remained the majority funder, with charity contributions being complementary and if this funding model has tangible and transparent benefits for the sector. 

Andrew O’Brien, Head of Policy and Public Affairs said:

“This research shows that public attitudes to charity regulation are complex, and there is no consensus on charging charities. Those in favour of charging charities need to make a case for why it would improve the regulator and is not merely a response to government cuts. 

CFG believes that it would be a false economy to charge charities for their regulation. The charity sector earns tens of billions of pounds through donations and fundraising. This money is spent on delivering services across the country, often underpinning the work of other public services, or delivering preventative work which saves public money.  So investing in the Charity Commission is a good use of public money.

Instead of focusing on charging charities, the regulator and Ministers need to make the case to the Treasury for why investing in the Charity Commission is the right thing to do and has public support.”

CFG launched the report at an event on Wednesday 13 January. Andrew O'Brien spoke at the event, outlining the policy implications of the findings and reiterating CFG's position. The speech can be downloaded here.

Download the full report here (.pdf), and for further information, email policy@cfg.org.uk.

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