Most fundraising breaches relate to treatment of vulnerable donors, report finds

The majority of fundraising breaches over the past year related to the treatment of vulnerable donors, a new report by the Fundraising Regulator has revealed.

According to the regulator’s annual complaints report, the watchdog undertook 82 investigations into complaints received last year, 24% of which related to the way fundraisers dealt with vulnerable donors.

A further 22% of investigations related to misleading information on fundraising materials, while 13% related to ‘no charity bag’ signs on properties not being observed.

The annual report was based on a sample of 58 charities that spend more than £5m a year on fundraising, as well as the regulator’s own complaints data.

Overall, complaints made to the Fundraising Regulator decreased by 33% over the year from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2019, but the total number of complaints still reached 737.

Direct mail most complained about fundraising method

Direct mail was revealed as the most complained about fundraising method over the year. Sending mail to donors generated 5,619 complaints in 2018/19 – an increase of nearly 20% on the 4,709 complaints reported in 2017/18.

Fundraising at outdoor events was also among the most complained about fundraising practices with 2,054 complaints – a 43% increase on the previous year.

Complaints about clothing collections fell over the year by 55%, but the regulator said this method still received more complaints than any other.

Door-to-door fundraising complaints also dropped by 22% over the year but was still one of the most complained about fundraising practices. The regulator said most individuals cited the behaviour of fundraisers as a problem, as well as knocking at an inappropriate time.

Other methods experiencing a fall in complaints were online advertising, which fell by 16% and e-mail fundraising, which saw a drop of 15%.

“The drop in complaints that we, and charities operating across the sector, received over the past year demonstrates the hard work that is going on to improve fundraising. We are pleased with the sector’s willingness to engage with us, and the self-regulatory model,” Chair of the Fundraising Regulator Complaints Committee, Michael Smyth said.

The regulator’s chief executive, Gerald Oppenheim added: “We are grateful for the sector’s continued positive response to the recommendations we make and I look forward to working closely with fundraising organisations to maintain the high standards of fundraising practice we see today.”

The Fundraising Regulator said it will soon be engaging with charities and the fundraising sector on the future format and content of the report to ensure the report “remains a useful tool for sharing information and learning”.

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