Large charity ends work with agency that paid fundraisers on 'commission-only' basis

14 Mar 2018 News

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has ceased working with a Norwich-based face-to-face fundraising agency after a newspaper discovered it only paid its fundraisers in commission.

The Eastern Daily Press published an exposé into Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions, a 'face-to-face marketing' agency based in Norwich, which offered its face-to-face fundraisers “uncapped commission-only pay”, in December 2017.

According to the undercover report by the Press, Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions said its face-to-face fundraisers were ‘self-employed’ which meant they didn’t have to legally pay them the national minimum wage.

The Code of Fundraising Practice states that fundraising organisations must not use commission-only payments unless “other sources of fundraising investment have been explored and exhausted”. The regulator has also warned against commission-only payments as they “may lead to undue pressure [from fundraisers] on donors”.

Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions is not registered with the Fundraising Regulator, but Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is, as is the National Deaf Children’s Society, another charity named by the Press has having a contract with Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home statement 

A spokeswoman from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said the charity ceased all activity with Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions in February 2018.

The full statement from Battersea said: “Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions are part of a group of companies that are contracted by the agency Professional Fundraising Services (PFS) to help many charities, including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home with their fundraising. As a charity that receives no government donations and relies on the generosity of the public to help us care for over 7,000 unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats every year, we use this way of fundraising to reach out to new supporters.

“We carry out many checks on companies before we start work with them. These include checking that any activities meet the standards, guidelines and requirements of appropriate national regulatory bodies and legislation. We also check that the company’s employment policies in terms of remuneration, contractual arrangements, bonuses and rewards, training and employment conditions for staff are acceptable and that we have adequate transparency of these. We ensure that we have up to date references from existing charity clients, we review and we carry out regular shadowing and mystery shops to ensure that fundraisers are representing Battersea Dogs and Cats Home accurately and meeting all the regulatory and legal requirements.

“We took the concerns raised about Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions very seriously and following further investigation began to wind down our relationship with them, ceasing all activity with them in February 2018.”

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home had a total income of £41m for the year ending 31 December 2016, over £20m of this was voluntary donations. 

NDCS response

A spokeswoman for the National Deaf Children's Society said: "Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions are one of a number of organisations employed by Personal Fundraising Services (PFS). We employ PFS to raise funds for our vital work to overcome the social and educational barriers that hold deaf children back.

"We recognise that different employment models work for different people and that some people prefer the flexibility offered by a self-employed role. Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions operate on a self-employed basis whilst other agencies we use employ their staff directly. We ensure that those working for agencies on our behalf are given clear information about their pay and employment status so that they are able to make an informed decision about the model which is best for them.

"We are full members of the Fundraising Regulator who set the rules for how fundraising agencies operate. We require all agencies we work with to abide by these rules." 

Norfolk and Suffolk Promotions have not responded to a request for comment.

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