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Fundraising complaints are on the rise, says regulator

06 May 2022 News

The Fundraising Regulator has seen a “rising tide” of complaints since February, its CEO said earlier this week.

Gerald Oppenheim was speaking at Trustee Exchange, an event organised by Civil Society Media, where he urged charities to remain vigilant. 

“We’re seeing a rising tide of complaints at the moment,” Oppenheim said.  

The Fundraising Regulator investigates complaints that cannot be resolved by the charitable organisation itself. 

Oppenheim said: “Complaints tend to go up and down over time depending on what’s going on. November is always a busy month because people react to pre-Christmas fundraising campaigns.

“But lately, and the reasons are not entirely clear, since February we’ve noticed a quite steep increase in numbers [of complaints]. March was just incredibly busy, and April – had we not had the Easter weekend in the middle probably would have came out the same. And May, three days in, is also looking interesting.”

It is unclear why complaints are on the rise

There are no discernible trends that explain the rise in complaints, Oppenheim said. 

He continued: “I don’t know what lies behind that – I suspect it’s a lot of reasons but one of them may be the move during lockdown to online fundraising, gambling, lotteries, all of that that raises concerns.”

Oppenheim mentioned that charities are advertising on TV a lot more to raise money and adverts for free prize draws with expensive houses and high cash prizes are becoming more prevalent. 

He said: “You can understand why that raises concerns for people about the propriety of all that even though there is nothing wrong and nothing illegal about it, for some people it doesn’t seem like a comfortable fit.”

In light of this, he said it was important trustees be careful when agreeing to campaigns like this as they “need to be aware of the risks and reputational concerns” that go with it. 

Complaints over misleading fundraising campaigns

Oppenheim said so far this year, some of the complaints have been about supposedly misleading fundraising campaigns. 

He said: “Gaming-based complaints are growing and then there are others around people reading charity literature accompanying fundraising and feeling that in some way it is ‘misleading’ where statistics are used selectively.

“A number of complainants clearly have issues with charities that are very very personal and that makes dealing with their concerns very very difficult. That’s why above everything else compliance with the code is so important, it sets the standards that charities should be following.”

Ukraine fundraising appeals

Fundraising Regulator has an enquiries line and Oppenheim said a lot of people have been getting in touch about fundraising for Ukraine. 

The regulator has issued guidance around fundraising for Ukraine. 

He mentioned the Disaster's Emergency Committee's Ukraine appeal which has raised millions for the country in crisis and estimated that the total figure raised would be nearing £400m. 

“With it comes risks,” he said. 

Oppenheim mentioned that it is important for charities know how to spend this money to help people effectively. 

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


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