Daily Telegraph front page accuses charities of dodging ‘begging ban’

13 Nov 2017 News

The Daily Telegraph has run an interview with Fundraising Regulator chair Lord Grade on its front page and accused charities of using unaddressed mailings to “dodge” the Fundraising Preference Service.

The Telegraph published the headline “Charities dodge begging ban” on the front page of its Saturday edition on 11 November, and also ran an interview with Lord Grade, chair of the Fundraising Regulator, who spoke with Christopher Hope, the Telegraph’s chief political correspondent.

In the interview, Hope wrote that Lord Grade intends to “set out plans to stop charities sending free pens and cards to attract donations” within unaddressed mailings, which are not covered by the scope of the FPS. Grade also spoke about looking at “further regulations to force fundraising websites to disclose hidden fees”.

The Telegraph said that the Fundraising Regulator’s recent complaints report singled out “junk mail” as the “single biggest issue complained about by donors”, and that “more than 80 per cent” of the 16,000 complaints regarding addressed direct mail contained “free items such as un-solicited pens, badges and Christmas cards”.

Majority of FPS suppressions ‘result of the old regime’

The Telegraph also said that, since the launch of the FPS in July, “10,000 people have demanded that their names and addresses be removed from charity databases”, with a fifth of those sign-ups made by “family members or carers of elderly or vulnerable people”.

Grade said that a lot of FPS suppressions “are a result of the old regime, the old wild west of data-sharing. It is very encouraging that relatives and carers are getting involved and using the service – that proves its worth.

“If it gets to an extreme, if you are getting repeated complaints about a particular charity, then we might have to bring it to the attention of the Charity Commission or the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

In the interview, Lord Grade said it was good that the public are beginning to question why charities are “spending this money” on free gifts in mailings.

Grade ‘staggered’ by 100 charities yet to respond to Fundraising Regulator

Lord Grade also said that he had been “staggered” at the fact that “100 charities of quite some size” have still yet to respond to the Fundraising Regulator’s requests for payment of the levy.

“We have sent them registered letters, we email, we never hear back from there,” said Grade. “It is unprofessional, isn’t it? It is just hard to understand." Grade also promised that the regulator would name these organisation “publicly”, and said “some organisations decided they were above all of this but eventually they have all come through”.

The regulator recently published the full list of charities which had been asked to pay and whether they had paid. A Civil Society News analysis indicated just a handful of the very largest charities had not paid, and most did so shortly after the list was published. 

The list also indicated that the regulator had been asking at least one charity which no longer existed for the levy payment. 

Grade told the Telegraph that, following an initial “wall of fear” from charities about the new regulator, he now felt the fundraising watchdog has now been “broadly accepted” by charities.

“For the first time after 16 months of formal operation, people are beginning to settle down. The fear level has definitely subsided,” he said.

‘Lack of transparency’ around digital fundraising platforms

In the interview, Grade also told the Telegraph there was a “lack of transparency” among digital fundraising platforms which “don’t all disclose their fees”. The piece also featured a statement from JustGiving, which does disclose its fee structures.

“It is not for us to tell people how to run their business,” said Grade about digital fundraising platforms. “It is for us to make sure the public has the information they need so that when they are choosing which platform or when a charity decides to use a giving platform it is all transparent.”

A spokesman for JustGiving said: “JustGiving has always been clear and transparent with all fees on donations through our platform. This is why so many causes have trusted us for the last 16 years.

“We continue to work every day to ensure that our users are informed and feel confident to donate to the millions of good causes on JustGiving. We will continue to work with the Fundraising Regulator to share best practice on this and many other aspects of giving.”


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