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Direct mail was the most complained about method of fundraising last year

27 Feb 2020 News

Direct mail overtook door-to-door as the most complained about method of fundraising among the biggest charities in 2018-19, a report from regulator has found.

The Fundraising Regulator published its annual Complaints Report today, looking at complaints received both by the regulator itself and by 58 charities that spend more than £5m a year on fundraising.

Decrease in complaints at biggest charities

These charities, which according to the report “represent a significant proportion of all complaints handled by the sector”, reported 20,541 fundraising complaints in 2018-19, a slight decrease (6 per cent) on the year before (21,851).

Some 5,619 complaints were about addressed direct mail, up by 19 per cent on the previous year (4,709 complaints). This fundraising method received the highest number of complaints.

Door-to-door fundraising came second, with 4,094 complaints, 22 per cent down on the year before (5,239).

Other methods of fundraising that attracted complaints include outdoor events (2,054 complaints, up by 43 per cent), online advertising (1,278 complaints, down by 16 per cent) and private site fundraising (1,226 complaints, up by 27 per cent). 

Complaints to the regulator down by a third

The report also says that the regulator received 737 complaints between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2019, down by a third on the previous year.

The vast majority of these were either not within its remit (41 per cent) or “premature” because they had not been submitted to the charity first (36 per cent).

Of the remaining ones, 82 led to an investigation by the regulator, and in 49 cases a breach of the code of practice was found. 

The regulator says that themes that emerged most frequently in the investigations were treatment of vulnerable donors, misleading information in fundraising communications and 'no charity bag' signs on properties not being observed.

Clothing collections were the fundraising method the regulator received the highest number of complaints about. This is despite biggest fundraising charities reporting a 55 per cent drop in complaints about this type of fundraising compared to last year (from 2,478 to 1,110).

‘Grateful’ for the sector’s response

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “Our annual Complaints Report is crucial in providing us with a clear picture of fundraising standards in the UK. The findings help us to identify areas which need greater attention from us, but also allow us to see where there has been improvement.

“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.”

Michael Smyth, chair of the Fundraising Regulator Complaints Committee, said: “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.”

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