The head of casework at the Fundraising Regulator has said that the number of complaints it gets from the public has increased by 20 per cent in the last year.
Sarah Fox, head of casework at the Fundraising Regulator, was speaking at the Institute of Fundraising's Convention, and said it had received “just over 1,100 complaints from the public in the last business year, an increase of around 20 per cent on the previous year”.
She said “a lot of those complaints weren’t in our remit” and they were referred to other regulators such as the Charity Commission, Information Commissioner’s Office, the police and Action Fraud.
She said, of the relevant complaints, the Fundraising Regulator has issued 55 decisions in the last year. She said this “wasn’t a huge number of investigations, but in 81 per cent of those investigations we have identified a breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice. So there is a very high uphold rate at the moment”.
Although she said that had actually decreased from the Fundraising Regulator’s last business year, where 100 per cent of investigations resulted in a complaint being upheld against a charity.
As Lord Grade, chair of the Fundraising Regulator told The Sunday Times last week, Fox said that “door-to-door, face-to-face fundraising in the street, unaddressed mail and in particular charity bags” were the source of the majority of public complaints received by the regulator.
She also said that “a failure of charities to properly monitor third parties working on their behalf and making sure their contractual agreements are very clear” had become a “big theme” for the regulator over the last 18 months.
Fox said that charities “have an absolute right to audit agencies” and make sure they are working in accordance with the Code of Fundraising Practice. She said this was an area in which the sector has “generally fallen short”.
Fundraising Regulator to launch new website
The Fundraising Regulator is hoping to launch a new, updated website by the end of the month which will also carry “at least 20” new complaints case studies.
Sarah Fox said the Fundraising Regulator hoped to launch its new, updated website “by the end of July”.
The new website will feature “at least 20” new, anonymised investigation case studies which the regulator has been putting together over the last six months or so.
“One of the big things we’re going ot be doing in the next couple of weeks is updating and refreshing lots of case summaries for our website. We’re currently going through a massive project revamping the whole website and we’re hoping that will be ready to launch on the 18 July.
“I’ve got about 20 case studies waiting to go up which will hopefully spread even more of the learning that we have seen from some of our case work.”
Fox said the regulator’s new website was part of its ongoing work to support charities with handling their own complaints, which she said was the biggest reason for breaches of the code.
“In most cases where we’ve found breaches [of the code] it’s been about the charity not being able to provide a full response to the complaints”, said Fox. “We’ve often found anecdotally through talking with some of the charities which have struggled to accept the breaches initially that that often happens when the individual complained about is the individual who is responding to complaint and taken that complaint personally. “
She said that charities should be viewing complaints from the public as a means of “improving their service and an opportunity to learn” as an organisation.
Richard Bowyer, director of marketing and public fundraising at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, said his organisation receives “several hundred complaints a year” from the public, and has found the best thing to do is “to work with the regulator”.
He said that the Fundraising Regulator is "protecting the sector by protecting the public”.