Earlier this month, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator ('OSCR') published the results of its inquiry into allegations of misconduct made against the Sick Kids Friends Foundation. The charity, set up to support the work of the Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children, had been the subject of complaints earlier this year, when reports emerged relating to poor fund-raising performance.
The charity's 'New Pyjamas' campaign achieved a return of just £60,000 in relation to £500,000 expended on the project. After this came to light, OSCR received a complaint alleging various instances of misconduct. The complainant alleged that the Trustees of the charity had been made aware of these allegations and had failed to act.
Although OSCR's inquiry showed no evidence of misconduct, their report did identify weaknesses in the governance of the charity which led to a "considerable overspend" on the 'New Pyjamas' campaign. The report recommended, in particular, that the Trustees review their constitution with a view to clarifying the issues of authority and decision-making within the organisation. Several other recommendations resulting from the inquiry have already been implemented, with the rest being under consideration at this time.
The decision shows that poor fundraising is not, of itself, grounds for a successful complaint against a charity. That said, trustees of charities should ensure that the rules in their constitution relating to governance/authority are robust and fit-for-purpose. If they are not, the trustees may well find themselves on the receiving end of a complaint.
In order to avoid a complaint situation ever arising (and without commenting further on the specifics of the complaint against the Sick Kids Friends Foundation) trustees always need to take proper steps to satisfy themselves that any proposed fund raising is prudent and likely to be successful. Where trustees propose to spend significant sums formulating and launching a fund raising project there will be an even greater need to ensure that the likely benefits to the charity will ultimately outweigh the costs.
OSCR's decision comes at the same time as it has announced an updated policy on Scottish charity complaints. As well as setting out what complainants and charities can expect from the complaints procedure, the policy outlines the remit of OSCR, specifying when the regulator will, or will not intervene. The updated OSCR 'Inquiry and Intervention Policy' can be viewed here: http://www.oscr.org.uk/publicationitem.aspx?id=053cbb6a-b826-4fa6-81ec-f489411a8a37