81% of fundraising complaints breach code of practice, regulator finds

An overwhelming majority of complaints made to the Fundraising Regulator breach the Fundraising Code of Practice, the watchdog has revealed.

In its latest Complaints Report, which is based on 78 investigations between 1 April 2017 and 31 August 2018, the regulator found 63 of the cases constituted a breach of the standards expected of charities in the UK.

According to the annual report, the most common type of breaches were about general principles and complaints, third party fundraisers and personal data.

Other areas of investigation included: how charities monitor third party fundraising agencies who work on their behalf, complaints handling, charity bags and the Fundraising Preference Service.

Despite this, the regulator said there was a ‘clear willingness and commitment’ from the organisations to make changes where code breaches were identified.

The investigations examined a wide-range of different fundraising activities and included both large and small organisations. Of the 78 investigations, 25 were into charities that spend less than £150,000 per year on fundraising.

The Complaints Report also looked at complaints reported by the 58 charities who spent the most on fundraising. These charities reported receiving a total of 21,851 complaints from April 2017 to March 2018.

It also found door-to-door fundraising was the largest complaint type, while addressed mail dropped to the second most popular complaint type. Other complaints centred around clothing collections, online fundraising and outdoor events.

Commenting on the findings, Fundraising Regulator chief executive, Gerald Oppenheim said: “Our Complaints Report is vital to our understanding of fundraising standards in the UK and helps us inform our work.

“Complaints made by the public make an important contribution to the way we, charities and their fundraising partners learn from concerns and make improvements. We will continue to review and evaluate the complaints process and we look forward to working closely with charities to ensure high standards of fundraising practice are maintained.”

The regulator’s complaints committee chair, Michael Smyth added: “In a tricky year for fundraising, the sector has stayed resilient and demonstrated its commitment to self-regulation and transparency.

“There is still room for improvement in terms of how charities initially deal with complaints and manage third parties before issues are escalated to the Fundraising Regulator, but I have been reassured by the sector’s receptiveness to our recommendations and the willingness of charities to engage with the self-regulatory model.”

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