Fundraising complaints to the regulator increased by 13% this year

04 Nov 2020 News

Complaints about charity fundraising dealt with by the Fundraising Regulator have increased by 13% year-on-year.

The Fundraising Regulator published its annual complaints report this morning, which looks at fundraising complaints that could not be resolved by charities and have been escalated to the regulator, and at all fundraising complaints received by a sample of the 56 biggest fundraising charities.

Between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2020, the Fundraising Regulator dealt with a total of 836 complaints, up from last year’s 737.

About half of them were outside of its remit, some of which were passed on to other organisations such as the Charity Commission, while about a third were “premature” because they had not been put to the charity first.

The total includes complaints received during the pandemic. The organisation said that complaints decreased in March when lockdown started, before picking up again in July as charities resumed public fundraising activities.

Complaints only led to 21 investigations by the regulator this year, down from last year’s 82. The regulator said this “is partly due to a shift in our approach to complaints, and partly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

What people complained about

The most complained about methods of fundraising were charity bags (131 complaints), followed by online fundraising (68 complaints) and face-to-face fundraising (67 complaints).

Complaints about charity bags prompted the regulator to publish new guidance on the topic, which covers legal and regulatory requirements and a list of information about charity bags that should be made available to the public.

The report says that complaints on charity bags were mostly about bags that had been delivered against someone’s wishes, as well as about their environmental impact.

The regulator said it recognises that when it comes to the delivery of charity bags, “it is not possible to eliminate all breaches of the code that occur as a result of human error, even when staff are trained appropriately, and sufficient third-party monitoring is carried out”. But it added that  “these breaches can cause significant frustration to members of the public”, and that charities need to make sure they are compliant when fundraising this way.

Direct mail most complained about at top charities

Complaints at the 56 biggest fundraising charity totalled about 18,000 between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. This data is based on charity’s annual reports, covers a different period that the regulator complaints data and does not take the pandemic into account.

Last year, the total number of fundraising complaints at the biggest fundraising charities was over 20,500, but the two cannot be compared because two charities are missing from this year’s count as they could not provide the data.

Like last year, the most-complained-about methods of fundraising were direct mail (4,054 complaints), door-to-door (2,413) and outdoor events (2,063). 

Regulator welcomes how charities engage with complaints process

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “The Annual Complaints Report gives us a detailed picture of the fundraising landscape and an understanding of the public’s experiences and concerns about charity fundraising.

“Importantly, it helps us to identify the areas where the sector needs to improve its fundraising practices, and where we need to focus our efforts as the Fundraising Regulator. In response to the charity bag complaints highlighted within the report, we have published new guidance to ensure that this fundraising activity is carried out in line with the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice. 

“It is encouraging that the vast majority of complaints are resolved by charities themselves before they are escalated to the Fundraising Regulator, and we welcome the way charities have continued to engage with our complaints process and respond to our recommendations.”

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