Regulator calls on charities for 'greater clarity' in their online fundraising

The Fundraising Regulator has seen a 13% increase in the total number of complaints it has received from the public about charity fundraising.

The most complained about methods were charity bags, face-to-face fundraising and online fundraising, which this year has overtaken direct mail complaints in the top three findraising concerns among the public

The figures have emerged in the regulator’s annual complaints report, which covers the period between 1 September 2019 and the end of August this year.

Of the 836 complaints it received, 68 related to online fundraising, which is being used increasingly by charities, particularly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and curbs on public fundraising.

Concerns around online fundraising covered governance, customer service, handling of personal data, potential fraud and pressure to donate as well as the wrong donation amount being taken.

“However, the main theme was concern that the information provided to potential donors was misleading,” said the regulator.

“In some of these complaints, a negative personal experience led the complainant to have strong views about the messaging that a charity used in its fundraising campaign.

“On other occasions, complainants challenged the factual accuracy of the information being presented to donors as part of a fundraising ask.”

The regulator added: “Fundraising online can be a helpful way to reach wide audiences of potential donors.

“However, for fundraising to be successful it is essential that potential donors are well informed about why a charity is seeking donations. This means charities need to be clear about how the money will be used so that donors can trust the information being provided to them as part of a fundraising ask.”

For all fundraising complaints there was a spike in complaints in July, “which is likely to be a result of fundraising resuming after nationwide lockdown”, found the regulator.

Despite the increase in complaints the regulator completed 21 investigations, fewer than the previous year, partly due to a change in the way it handles complaints and the impact of Covid-19.

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