FRSB criticises RSPB for lack of 'robust and transparent complaints process'

17 Mar 2016 News

The FRSB has criticised the RSPB for being “unable to demonstrate that it was operating a robust and transparent complaints process”.

The FRSB has criticised the RSPB for being “unable to demonstrate that it was operating a robust and transparent complaints process”.

The FRSB today published a judgment by its complaints adjudication panel, in the case of a complaint by a regular donor who was asked to increase his donation.

The FRSB said that there was “insufficient evidence” available to see whether or not the RSPB had breached the Code of Fundraising Practice. But it criticised the RSPB for not keeping “a detailed record” of a telephone conversation it had with a complainant and said its adjudication panel was “significantly hindered” in making a judgment as a result.

As a result, the FRSB has “strongly advised” all fundraising organisations to “retain all details relating to every fundraising-related complaint they receive”. The adjudication panel said that this is not currently a requirement of the Code but that it “ought to be considered as a key requirement of fundraising best practice”.

Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, (pictured) said: “It is entirely unacceptable for a charity not to retain adequate records on supporter communication or contact preferences, particularly in relation to any dialogue that may be pertinent to a complaint and that restricts our ability to investigate".

A spokesman for the RSPB said: “It is reassuring to hear that we have not been judged in breach of the code but we thank the FRSB for its suggestions on how we can further tighten our processes and will take them on board.

“The RSPB already has thorough procedures in place along with a very low complaint rate but we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the way we approach all of our work.”

A statement from the IoF said: “Respecting and acting on supporters' wishes is an essential part of responsible fundraising.

"We note the FRSB’s recommendation that the Code should require fundraising organisations to retain all details relating to every fundraising complaint and will, following discussions with the new Fundraising Regulator, ensure this is looked at and considered by the Standards Committee."

The complaint history

The ruling stems from a case that was passed onto the complaints panel as a stage 3 on 16 December 2015.

The complainant, who had been a regular monthly donor to the RSPB for a number of years, was originally contacted by a telephone fundraising agency representing the charity in early January 2015, asking if he would be willing to increase his monthly donation. The complainant declined and said he didn’t wish to be contacted by the agency again.

He subsequently contacted the RSPB on 14 January and highlighted his unhappiness and asked to be removed from the charity’s ‘marketing list’. According to the report, a few days later the complainant put his concerns in an email to the charity stating he was “disgusted” with the charity making “begging cold calls” and said he was considering cancelling his donation.

While the RSPB removed the complainant’s name from future telephone approaches, he was not removed from its mailing lists.

On 18 July 2015 the complainant received a letter from the RSPB asking for him to increase his donation. On the same day the complainant contacted the FRSB with his complaint. He subsequently emailed the charity to cancel his direct debit on 20 July.

10 days later Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, wrote to the complainant to apologise and said that he had received direct marketing material due to an “administrative error” and explained that “the suppressions added to your record were in relation to telephone calls. What should have also been applied and was not, was a suppression in relation to stopping further asks”.

A second email exchange between the complainant and Clarke came in August but the complainant pursued his concerns through the next two stages of the FRSB’s complaints process.