After 36 years as the professional membership body for fundraising in the UK, the Institute of Fundraising has long championed the advancement of knowledge and skills within the sector. Now on the journey to becoming a Chartered Body, Alex Xavier, the Institute’s director of Membership, Compliance and Professional Development explains what this could mean for the fundraising profession.
In the UK, we have a long-standing system where organisations can be granted Chartered Status by the sovereign (Queen Elizabeth II) based on a recommendation by the Privy Council (part of the UK government). Essentially, Chartered Status signifies that the organisation is pre-eminent in its field, strengthening confidence in its work or products.
It can be awarded to membership organisations who are unique in the sector that they represent, possess members who hold academic qualifications, who are financially sound and are operating in the interest of the public.
The Institute of Fundraising meets this criteria and, following a successful vote by members at our 2019 AGM, we are now able to submit a formal application to the government to become a Chartered Body. Subject to their approval, and a final approval from the Queen, we could find ourselves becoming the Chartered Institute of Fundraising at the start of 2020. But what would this mean for fundraising?
Benefits of becoming a Chartered Body
Fundraising is an emerging profession in comparison to well-established ones such as accountants and lawyers, so gaining recognition from the Queen would be formal acknowledgement that being a fundraiser is a profession. Chartered Status would give our members, and the wider sector, added credibility and recognition for all of the work they do – day in day out – to gain support for the great causes they represent.
It could also help improve trust in fundraising and strengthen the sector’s focus on ethics and high standards, as well as to support the sector in attracting diverse talent through an increased ability to showcase fundraising as a career of choice.
Impact on leadership and career development
Many fundraisers in the sector did not go to university or leave school or college with the intention of becoming a fundraiser. Over time, should we become a Chartered Body, we would hope this will change and we can attract more talent – particularly diverse talent – into our community.
At the moment, a common phrase we hear is that many people simply ‘fall into fundraising’. As a result, many have had to learn on the job without any formal training to give them knowledge of concepts and models that they can apply in their day to day roles.
That is why we have developed a qualifications framework consisting of a Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Fundraising to provide fundraisers with the knowledge they need to be leaders in their field and support career progression. In fact, 85% of our graduates report improved job prospects due to the knowledge and skills they gain through their studies.
Over 1,100 fundraisers have completed our qualifications and, should the Institute become a Chartered Body, and subsequently be authorised to award ‘Chartered Fundraiser’ status to Individual Members, those holding our qualifications (or approved equivalents) would find themselves eligible.
Introducing Continuous Professional Development requirements
In order to maintain what we anticipate to be the pinnacle in professional recognition, we are likely to have an annual Continuous Professional Development (CPD) requirement which will require Individual Members to evidence how they have kept their knowledge and skills up to date on an annual basis. We would, however, also consider an ‘experiential’ route for those who do not hold qualifications. Any fundraiser who shows this level of commitment would be showing to their peers and employers that they take their career very seriously, and I am sure would inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
This is a very exciting body of work not only for the Institute, but the sector as a whole. We will be able to develop a common understanding around what it means to be a fundraising professional and, over time, showcase the profession to drive talent into the sector. The causes and beneficiaries that our community works so hard for deserve the best fundraisers and the best support from us as a professional body, and we hope our application is approved by the Queen to help us take fundraising to the next level.
Alex is responsible for leading the Institute of Fundraising’s Academy, Compliance and Individual Membership teams. He previously worked for the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment as Assistant Director of Member Services, as well as holding senior level roles at GovNet Communications and Incisive Media. Alex holds a BA (Hons) in Politics from Lancaster University, as well as being qualified through the CIPD in Human Resource Development.