Calls for tougher code on professional fund-raisers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 June, 2011, 12:00am


A proposal for a non-statutory code of practice for professional fund-raisers was met with criticism yesterday for failing to go far enough.

Former social welfare sector legislator Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said such companies should be told to charge a fixed amount instead of commission.

And Gloria Chan Kwong-wai, of Medecins Sans Frontieres Hong Kong, said: 'We believe there should be clearer regulations. It is not good enough to have a non-statutory code of practice only.'

She said her group had hired professional fund-raisers, partly because of cost-effectiveness.

Employees of these companies are commonly seen stopping people on busy streets and trying to persuade them to make donations.

Usually, the firm will keep 10 to 20 per cent of the donations - amounts that have raised concerns about the commercialisation of charity.

A non-statutory code of practice to regulate their activities was recommended in a consultation report released by the Law Reform Commission's charities sub-committee yesterday.

It would, among other things, require professional fund-raisers to reveal their contracts with charities, including details on remuneration.

Sub-committee chairman Bernard Chan said the intent was to promote transparency of these activities. 'I do not think there is any problem for charity groups to hire them to raise funds. It is very common overseas,' said Chan. 'But we should let the members of the public know more about these fund-raisers and know more about their costs and how the donations would be used.'

One professional fund-raising firm, Mission Support, which was set up in 2003, yesterday welcomed the idea.

'It is a good thing to have a code of practice,' a spokesman said. 'Professional fund-raising is still a relatively new thing here. So, it is natural that not all people understand our work and our role.'

According to Mission Support's website, it regularly hires so-called fund-raising ambassadors. It offers a 'permanent job' for five days a week, and anyone with junior secondary level education and work experience can apply. The monthly pay, including bonus, could reach HK$15,000, the website said.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of Friends of the Earth, said he chose not to hire fund-raising firms for fear of creating a bad public image.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at a non-government organisation added: 'We can hardly recruit volunteers to stand in the street eight hours a day, five days a week - and train new volunteers again to replace dropouts. The return of investment is not very good. Therefore, we hire professionals.'