While some European nations are tightening legislation for fundraising and marketing, Finland is heading towards reform that will relax current laws, making public collections more accessible for charities. Fundraising Europe interviews Pia Tornikoski, Secretary General of VaLa (the Finnish Fundraising Association) about the proposed changes.
[Fundraising Europe] Why is your public collections law being reformed?
[Pia Tornikoski] The current law is very strict and, out of nearly 100,000 registered associations and foundations, only around 500 charities have a license to ask for donations.
The application process is preventative for many organisations. Charities that apply for a collection licence currently have to send their one or two year fundraising plans to the police for approval. Those plans set out how they are going to appeal for funds and which channels they will use.
The current system is too heavy and slow for charities, which might have to wait as long as eight months for a licence to come through. In the changing world, it seems very old-fashioned and fails to consider the development of new fundraising tools.
What changes are likely to be made?
Unlike reform to fundraising regulation in the UK, where legislation has been tightened, we’re going in the opposite direction. We are giving up our current license system and trying to build a structure which is still transparent for donors. It will significantly lighten the bureaucracy. Both charities and active members of parliament recognise the need to make it easier to encourage donations from the public.
We’re also looking at a model that may enable quick action for smaller appeals and make it possible for a wider range of causes to fundraise, including some non-registered associations or relevant groups of active citizens.
When are these changes likely to be introduced?
A working group was formed last August to drive reform and the group will continue working until the end of the year. But it’s difficult to say when the new law will come into force.
Part of the work programme has included asking donors what they think about the way charities communicate with them. We have also looked at what is being done in other Nordic nations, consulting with authorities and national fundraising associations in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They have a lot of good practices which could work in Finland too.
How will these changes impact the way charities fundraise and people give?
The reform could enable more spontaneous fundraising for charities. And for donors, it would give them more information about charities and their collections (via an easily accessible and updated public register). Hopefully, that will increase giving.
Overall, it is important that we make it clear why charities need donations from the public, how they are going to use the money and show that they keep their promises to donors.
This interview follows the publication of research commissioned from Taloustutkimus, which shows that the majority of Finnish people feel positively towards the charity sector and there is an opportunity to create a genuine donation culture. The research also underlined the need for open and transparent communication from the sector.
About Pia Tornikoski
Pia Tornikoski is a member of the task group working on the development of public collection legislation in Finland. She is Secretary General of the Finnish Fundraising Association (VaLa) and a partner at Torniconsulting Oy. Pia is also a Board member of EFA and the Finnish IFC Ambassador.