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Tag overhauls fundraising training after Sunday Telegraph exposé

The Sunday Telegraph filmed face-to-face training by Tag
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Tag overhauls fundraising training after Sunday Telegraph exposé6

Fundraising | Celina Ribeiro | 25 Jun 2012

Street fundraising company Tag has pulled together a new training regime for face-to-face fundraisers after a Sunday Telegraph exposé found a campaign the company ran for Marie Curie Cancer Care breached numerous rules and regulations.

The Fundraising Standards Board and Marie Curie have both launched investigations into the training and behaviour of fundraisers involved in the campaign that encouraged donors to sign up to a small text donation, which was then followed up with a direct debit conversion call by Tag’s sister company, Listen.

Numerous instances of poor practice were highlighted in the Sunday paper’s report, including street fundraisers not making disclosure statements to donors, sending text donations from their own phones, deliberately confusing passers-by in order to engage in conversation and trainers telling trainees not to accept a ‘no’ response. Several Tag staff have been disciplined following contact from the newspaper.

The report of poor practice comes less than a week after the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) itself revealed that monitoring has found a downward trend in standards in street fundraising. In contrast, last year was the best year for street fundraising recruitment for nearly a decade.

Nick Henry, head of standards and allocations at the PFRA, said that spot checks of Tag fundraising previous to the Sunday report had brought up issues, which the PFRA had brought up with the company.  Following that Tag invited the PFRA to speak to its team leaders about best practice. 

Henry said the breaches recorded by the Sunday Telegraph are "extremely serious". "It is not acceptable to follow people. It is not acceptable to deliberately confuse people. It is not acceptable to continue with engagements once people have said they do not wish it to continue," he said.

Strong initial trial results for Marie Curie

Marie Curie has completed the one-off trial and while initial results are still being reviewed, a spokeswoman for the charity confirmed to civilsociety.co.uk the campaign performed well in terms of return on investment in the trial period.

She said: "Initial results from the trial were positive and showed a low attrition rate and higher than expected average gift. This suggests that the five-year ROI would be at least 2.5-1, which compares favourably with other ways of recruiting committed givers.

"As well as looking at the financial return from a test campaign we also look at the impact, positive or negative, on the charity’s brand.”

The campaign was reported by the Sunday Telegraph to have cost the charity £367,000.

Tag new training regime

Tag released a statement this morning reporting that its senior managers had worked through the weekend to devise a new training system to counter the problems which were brought up in the newspaper investigation.

New recruits will have to sign up to a five-point compliance document before they are allowed out onto the streets. The document outlines fundraisers’ responsibility to make disclosure statements, clarifies acceptable ‘stopping techniques’ and confirms that they have understood the PFRA rules.

While ‘prospecting’ – stopping people on the street to sign up to hear from a charity without an immediate financial commitment – does not require fundraisers make disclosure statements, Ian MacQuillin, head of communications at the PFRA, said there needs to be more clarity about the requirement for fundraisers soliciting SMS donations on the street to make the statement about the costs involved in fundraising. “The confusion has to be cleared up,” he said.

The PRFA will be asked to approve Tag’s new training regime which will also see new staff spend longer in office-based training which will give greater prominence to the PFRA rules.

Managing director of Tag, Tony Chambralides, said: “We are passionate believers in the value of face-to-face fundraising, and understand that the public must have confidence that the rules are strictly adhered to if the integrity of this method of raising money is to be maintained.

“While we are certain these were isolated incidents we are very disappointed at the paper’s disclosures and immediately realised that firm action had to be taken.”

Tag did not wish to comment on current discussions with its other charity clients in the wake, and lead up, to the Sunday report.

FRSB and charity investigations

Both the FRSB and Marie Curie have announced investigations. The charity began its investigation last week, and has no specific timetable for completion.

Fabian French, director of fundraising at Marie Curie, said the charity welcomed the newspaper investigation, but was disappointed by its findings. “We take this extremely seriously,” he said.

The FRSB, meanwhile, warned that such practices as reported by the Sunday Telegraph could erode public trust and confidence in fundraising.

“Fundraising agencies must maintain the highest standards at all times, protecting and building on brands and reputations of the charity clients they work with,” said chief executive Alistair McLean.

The Institute of Fundraising said it is awaiting the outcome of the two investigations. Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute, said: “If the reports are true they show completely unacceptable behaviour outside the Institute’s Code of Fundraising Practice, and which the Institute of Fundraising would wholeheartedly condemn.” 

Rebecca
Director
Langton N4P
29 Jun 2012

My personal view is that street fundraisers would do a lot better if they were better informed on the charities that they are representing. I have often been stopped and had little knowledge imparted on what my money is required for, and the focus has remained on the need to donate and sign up for a regular contribution rather than what it is funding.
I would rather see street fundraisers imparting knowledge of a charity, spreading the word and leaving the passer by with information in order for them to make up their mind whether to donate or not. It is still a "sell" but you are not forcing the individual into a decision on the spot and I also believe you are losing potential donors by asking people to hand over personal finance details on the street. Most people I know wouldn't do this. The fact that you can say "they spend 6 hours if not more on the street getting rejected for most of the day" seems to me to show that the ROI is not worth it and that perhaps the focus could be elsewhere.

Sharon
3 Jul 2012
Response to [Rebecca ]

Absolutely. Organisations like New Philanthropy Capital spend their time and efforts trying to encourage more informed and strategic giving, but street and door-to-door fundraising seriously undermines this philosophy. I would never sign up to a regular donation on the spot - I want to go away, research the organisation and look at where my money will be going. It does make me wonder how much some charities support the idea of informed giving if they are happy to recruit donors in such a pressured way.

Jeremy Barker
Specialist Adviser
Scunthorpe CAB
29 Jun 2012
Response to [Rebecca ]

100% agree with this comment. It also applies to fundraisers who go calling house to house.

The expectation that you will sign up to donate something there and then is completely unreasonable. Although some may be willing to do so I am not. At the very least these fundraisers should be willing to hand over a leaflet explaining what the charity does and a form to make a donation (one-off or ongoing) that can be sent to the charity by post. The stupid excuses I have heard for not handing over information don't merit repeating.

I would never make a decision to give without several days for consideration.

John Marshall
CEO
Centrepoint Outreach
28 Jun 2012

Layla - If I gave you £2.50 and still want my pint - I'd think... it's cost me £7.50! Some objection responses might sadly encourage some of the abuse you have encountered. Most people consider their personal finance decisions a private matter. You expect them to give personal information to you in the street - a complete stranger! I decide which charities I wish to support - not as a result of objection responses or comments I 've received such as: "Don't you care what happens to abused children?"
You may be polite - but you work in an industry that has a poor reputation in the eyes of many shoppers just going about their own business who do not wish to be stopped almost weekly.

Jo Wood
25 Jun 2012

I don't believe anything will change for the better. I doubt that chuggers in my localities have ever been properly trained, except possibly to lie to someone that they have been trained or to lie in their spiel. The chuggers always say that they are working directly for the charity, that all the contributions go direct to the charity, that the charity doesn't pay anything for the collection.

Until chugging is policed, and there are criminal prosecutions and sanctions on companies breaking the rules, nothing will change.

Layla
28 Jun 2012
Response to [Jo Wood]

We are defiantly not trained to lie. We are trained to make people think. For example, if some body says "I cant afford it" then we use an objection response like "what would you do if you dropped a new pint on the floor? Buy a new one, thats all we're asking for that pint on the floor, £2.50". How could we lie? The figures that we speak about are shocking enough. We cant lie about the donation because you'll soon find out at the end of the month anyway! No ones going to admit they can afford to give money away to something that isn't benefiting them. SO we have to go in depth to make realise, "I'm not going to miss £2 at the end of the week!"
A lot of fundraisers do work directly for the charity.
At the end of the day your going to get a few idiots in every line of work. These idiots don't last long. Fundraising managers regularly go on site visits and keep a close eye on their workers, as soon as a fundraiser puts a toe out of line they are gone.
If you ever experience a fundraiser walking more than three steps with you or if you say no more than three times in the spiel then contact the PRFA. You cant judge a whole profession on a few bad experiences. Fundraisers are hard working individuals. They spend 6 hours if not more on the street getting rejected for most of the day. I have being doing this for a year now and have been spat at more than one, been reduced to tears, had things thrown at me and hit once, mostly by grown men, and like a lot of fundraisers i am only 18! We are just human beings trying to raise money for a good cause, we're not all doing it for easy money. A fundraiser is not only someone collecting money, we are also used for people to offload their anger and emotional baggage. So please next time you meet one of us, consider our age and that we have to deal with in a day. Saying no thank you is ok!

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