Fundraising complaints rise by 14% at largest charities, research finds

24 Mar 2023 News

Complaints at the largest fundraising charities increased by 14% last year, according to new research, with those at RNLI almost doubling.  

Civil Society News’ analysis found complaints at 47 of the largest fundraising charities increased from 12,116 in 2020-21 to 13,843 in 2021-22.

But this was still below pre-pandemic levels. In 2018-19, the same 47 charities altogether had 16,949 fundraising complaints. This fell to 15,091 in 2019-20.

Charities said the rise in complaints last year was due to the return of face-to-face fundraising and in-person events as well as their relationships with third-party organisations.

Most complained about charities

Civil Society News has analysed data available from 50 of the largest fundraising charities for the past four years.

Some 48 of the original 50 charities responded to the latest research, with 47 providing data for all four years since 2018-19.

Out of the 48 charities that gave data for 2021-22, there was an even split between those that had seen an increase or decrease in complaints. 

While 24 charities saw negative feedback fall last year, 24 saw them rise. Two could not provide up-to-date complaints data – Plan International UK and the Woodland Trust. 

Woodland Trust had previously reported a relatively high number of complaints – 1,963 in 2018-19 and 1,780 in 2019-20. 

For the fourth year running, Macmillan Cancer Support was the most complained about charity.

In 2021-22, Macmillan received 3,771 fundraising complaints, an increase of 18% on the year prior. 

A spokesperson for Macmillan told Civil Society News it received 2,841 fundraising-only complaints in 2020-21, 4,009 in 2019-20 and 3,170 the year before that. 

RNLI became the second most complained about charity, with its complaints almost doubling from 639 in 2020-21 to 1105 in 2021-22. 

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) was the third most complained about charity, the same as the year before.

CRUK saw its complaints increase by 58% for the year ending March 2022 (from 524 to 830).

Its accounts read that this rise is “in line with the reintroduction of fundraising activities”.

An in-depth report of the research will be published on Civil Society News next week and in the April edition of Fundraising Magazine.

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