Fundraising Regulator publishes ten investigations including one on JustGiving

18 Sep 2019 News

The Fundraising Regulator has today published the names and details of investigations into ten charities and agencies including JustGiving, NSPCC, the Salvation Army and NDCS. 

Seven out of the 10 investigations were found to involve a breach of the Code of Fundraising. 

This year the regulator changed its approach, saying it would name those involved in investigations, and these are the first batch of reports to be published since then. 

Catherine Orr, head of casework, said in a blog on the regulator's website: "We think it’s right that we name all the organisations we investigate, so that we promote and support a culture of ethical fundraising, allow the public, donors and potential donors to make informed decisions when they choose to donate to charity, and ensure we are transparent in our investigations process. 

"This brings our investigation work in line with that of other regulators such as the Charity Commission which names the organisations that it investigates." 

Alzheimer’s Society and REAL Fundraising

In a case relating to the Alzheimer’s Society, a complainant told the regulator that a direct debit was set up by a street fundraiser from REAL Fundraising in early 2017 without the permission of the individual.

The regulator decided Alzheimer’s Society and REAL Fundraising had carried out the proper welcome procedures to notify the possible donor of the collections, and were therefore not in breach of the code.

Alex Hyde-Smith, director of fundraising at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Although we’re sad to learn that a donor had cause for complaint, we are reassured that the investigation found no breach of the fundraising code by Alzheimer’s Society or our agency.

"From the date the final response was issued, we have refunded payments to the donor, and are pleased that this issue has been resolved.

"The investigation showed our procedures and policies are correct and suitable for responsible fundraising."

Associated Country Women of the World

The complaint against ACWW involved an organisation which claimed it had been misled into thinking it was the only one raising funds for a particular cause at the charity.

The regulator did not find any evidence that ACWW had deliberately misled the organisation, however it had failed to communicate changes clearly to donors and therefore was in breach of the code.

Tish Collins, chief executive officer at ACWW, told Civil Society News: “The first thing is we didn’t realise it was a complaint that was being made, we were asked for a point of clarification which we gave and the next thing we knew it had become a complaint. 

“But we had already changed our systems as soon as we were aware the year before that there was an ambiguity there. 

“We completely changed so long before the query or the complaint - we had already changed our procedures. 

“We did do an investigation, we did look into it; one of the things we didn’t have was an official complaints procedure that one could follow, we hadn’t publicised a complaints procedure. 

“So that is one of the things that we are addressing, our board will be confirming that in October.”

East London Textiles, Leukaemia Care and Bliss

The complainant in this case told the regulator that they had asked agency ELT to stop delivering charity bags, initially for Leukaemia Care and recently for Bliss, and that a “no charity bag” sticker on their letterbox was also ignored.

The regulator found the agency had breached the complaint handling section of the code and had also not demonstrated it had learnt from complaints received.

The two charities also breached the code in relation to working with third parties.

A spokesperson for ELT told Civil Society News: “We do our very best to adhere to all requests and to respect the wishes of the donor.

“Due to an unfortunate mistake and human error this issue has occurred, therefore we have revisited our training policies and enhanced our systems to prevent further incidents of this nature.”

A spokesperson for Leukaemia Care told Civil Society News its contract with East London Textiles ended on 9 September and it would not be engaging in this form of fundraising at the current time.

Justin Irwin, chief executive of Bliss said: “We are very sorry for any distress caused to the complainant after receiving unwanted charity collection bags from one of our suppliers, one of which displayed the Bliss logo.

“Bliss takes any complaint about our work or the work of our suppliers very seriously.

“Since this complaint was taken up by the Fundraising Regulator, we have acted swiftly to do all we can to prevent this from happening in future.

“The Fundraising Regulator has confirmed that we have complied with all their recommendations and as such, no further action is required.”

JustGiving

The complaint against JustGiving was that Gift Aid had not been applied to an individual’s donation, and there was concern that Gift Aid was being removed from other eligible donations.

Although the regulator found that JustGiving had investigated the complaint promptly and had been correct to remove the Gift Aid because the donation was not eligible, it had failed to communicate effectively with the complainant so it breached the code.

The regulator has recommended JustGiving improve its complaints handling process. The platform has accepted the findings and recommendation.

Macmillan Cancer Support

A complaint was made that the charity’s campaign misinformed the public when several people did not receive face-to-face support from the charity.

The regulator found Macmillan’s campaigns were not misleading, as it had not fundraised on the basis that face-to-face services would always be available.

Macmillan was therefore not in breach of the code and no recommendations and actions were made.

National Deaf Children’s Society and Personal Fundraising Services

A member of the public complained that professional fundraisers working on behalf of NDCS had followed people and in one case touched someone on the arm. NDCS provided fresh training to fundraisers and committed to refresher training every four to five weeks. 

The Fundraising Regulator found the charity had investigated and acted properly, but that Personal Fundraising Services had breached the code by being “unreasonably persistent” and not displaying identification. 

Both organisations have accepted the findings. 

Mike Wade, director of fundraising and communications at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We work closely with the Fundraising Regulator to maintain the highest possible standards and are pleased that they agree we properly investigated and responded to this complaint and that we monitor the work of our agencies effectively.  

“We always look to learn from every complaint we receive and I personally made sure every single fundraiser working on our behalf at this agency was retrained to ensure they are crystal clear about our high expectations. We are so grateful to the incredibly generous Great British public, who every day help us to transform the lives of deaf children.” 

NSPCC and Clothes Aid

A complainant reported that they had received two charity bags within six weeks despite displaying a “no charity bag” sign on their front door. NSPCC apologised to the individual and spoke to the agency, but the person received a further bag a few weeks later. 

The agency dismissed the distributor responsible and NSPCC has terminated its contract with Clothes Aid. The Fundraising Regulator said that although both organisations acted promptly but that Clothes Aid did not have a robust enough system to monitor and record issues, which was a breach of the code. 

NSPCC did not breach the code. 

The Salvation Army 

Someone complained that the Salvation Army had ignored a request made using the Fundraising Preference Service to cease sending direct mail. An internal investigation found that the charity had failed to update its records and apologised for the oversight. 

The investigation uncovered that a further 82 people were continuing to receive mail against their wishes, and the Fundraising Regulator found the Salvation Army to be in breach of the code. 

The Salvation Army is already in the process of improving its internal data management processes and the regulator has not required it to take any further action. 

A spokesperson for The Salvation Army said: “We take requests and feedback from our donors very seriously; without them we simply couldn’t support the thousands of people we do every year and we are extremely grateful for their support.

“We regret the error in our donor mailing process which led to a number of people - who had opted out - receiving a mailing from us this year. In response we have changed our processes, which have been approved by our Data Protection and Risk Management teams.

“The Fundraising Regulator has said it is satisfied with the steps we have taken and has made no further recommendations. We continue to be committed to full compliance in this area and meeting the expectations of our supporters.” 

Transformation for Veterans and ECS Textiles

A member of the public said they received unwanted charity bags but the charity and agency did not respond to complaints. When the Fundraising Regulator investigated it found that the individual had been added to the agency’s “do not deliver” list, but the individual continued to receive bags. 

The agency blamed “human error”. Transformation for Veterans told the regulator that it had no record of the first complaint and that it was for the agency to handle. The regulator concluded that continuing to deliver was a breach of the code and that by not responding to the person, the agency had “not acted respectfully”. 

It also found that the charity did not have appropriate monitoring in place so was also in breach of the code. The regulator has made a number of recommendations to both organisations to raise standards. 

ECS Textiles has accepted the findings and recommendations. Transformation for Veterans has said it will implement recommendations.

Transformation for Veterans told Civil Society News that it was "unfortunate that on this one occasion that there was a communication breakdown". It has sent an unreserved apology to the individual concerned and resolved the matter to the satisfaction of the member of the public. 

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