Direct marketing and public collections lead public fundraising complaints for 2015

Direct marketing and public collections accounted for 86 per cent of fundraising complaints recorded in 2014, according to the Fundraising Standards Board’s annual complaints report.

Three quarters of the 52,389 complaints charities reported to the FRSB involved addressed mail, telephone, doorstep face-to-face (Direct Debit) and clothing collections. There were more than 20 billion fundraising contacts reported.

Of the 17 complaints referred to the FRSB, six went through the adjudication process.

The number of FRSB members completing complaint returns rose 11 per cent over the 2013 figure, reflecting 10 per cent growth in the self-regulatory body’s membership. Reporting charities filed 8 per cent more complaints, with 48 per cent of the rise coming from charities reporting to the FRSB for the first time in 2014.

Launched at the Institute of Fundraising’s annual convention, the report only covers 2014 so does not take into account recent complaints following the death of Olive Cooke. However, the FRSB said the figures showed some commonality in terms of issues raised.

On direct mail, leading causes for complaint were poorly addressed communications, frequency of mailings, and tone of appeals, accounting for 25 per cent, 20 per cent, and 13 per cent of mail complaints respectively.

For telephone fundraising, leading causes for complaint were a general dislike of telephone fundraising, the tone of the appeal, and frequency of calls at 34 per cent, 30 per cent and 18 per cent. Behaviour of fundraisers led complaints for doorstep appeals at 42 per cent, while failing to pick up collection bags was the most common objection for household clothing collections at 64 per cent.

The large majority of complaints were driven by a relatively small number of major charities. The average number of complaints per charity is 39, with major charities averaging 500 complaints, and small and micro organisations typically filing less than one.

FRSB chair Colin Lloyd said that following recent controversies the need to listen to donors and the public has never been more evident.

The common themes emerging in public feedback need to be met with a commitment from fundraisers to look at the frequency of approaches and the ease with which members of the public can opt out of future contact, Lloyd said.
“We welcome the initial steps that the Institute of Fundraising has recently announced to strengthen and review standards in these areas and we look forward to further progress over the coming weeks,” he said. “We recognise the immense challenges facing charities as they deal with continued Government cuts and growing demand for services; there is an urgent need for funds. But, there is also an urgent need to ensure that public concerns are addressed and that a balance is struck that meets both the interests of the donor and charity beneficiaries.”

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