Two charities breached rules during Covid lockdowns, Fundraising Regulator finds

08 Dec 2021 News

The Asian Foundation for Help and the Humanitarian and Saving Lives Trust were both found to have breached aspects of the Code of Fundraising Practice, according to investigations. 

The Fundraising Regulator published four investigations yesterday. In one case a trustee forced their way into a shielding person's house to collect a cheque.

Another charity continued fundraising outside supermarkets during lockdown, and the volunteer had an argument with the member of the public. 

In two cases, Operation Smile UK and the Wildheart Trust, the regulator concluded that no breach had happened. 

Where breaches occurred, the charity has agreed to follow the regulator’s recommendations. 

Asian Foundation for Help

According to the Fundraising Regulator’s summary, a complainant was unhappy that a trustee came to their home to collect a cheque from an elderly relative. 

“The elderly relative was a long-term supporter of the charity and they wanted to donate to it via cheque,” the summary says. “They called the charity to arrange collection of the cheque, however this request was not actioned immediately. Meanwhile, the complainant spoke to the charity to explain that their relative was suffering from poor health and they considered them to be vulnerable.” 

However, “months later” and during the pandemic when the individual was shielding, a trustee turned up at their house to collect the cheque. 

“There was a heated exchange between the trustee and the complainant. However, the trustee still entered the property to collect the cheque,” the regulator said. 

When the charity was approached it did not admit to wrongdoing and “made disparaging remarks about the complainant”, but did refund the donation. 

The Fundraising Regulator said the charity had failed to take into account the needs of a vulnerable donor and “showed a lack of empathy for the complainant and the elderly relative”.

Asian Foundation for Help has agreed to follow the Fundraising Regulator’s recommendations and is introducing new guidelines about vulnerable donors. 

 A spokesperson for the charity, told Civil Society News: “One small mistake is now tarnishing our charity, which is totally out of order. We have been operating since 1983 and we have done so much good work.”

The Humanitarian and Saving Lives Trust

Someone complained the Humanitarian and Saving Lives Trust was fundraising during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A fundraiser was collecting donations outside a supermarket in February 2021 and, according to the Fundraising Regulator’s summary, “the complainant approached the fundraiser twice, donating some loose change on both occasions”. 

However, the complainant accused the fundraiser of not saying which charity they were collecting for, and insisted on £5 or £10 notes because “coins make the collection bucket heavy”. 

The Fundraising Regulator said that the complainant and the fundraiser recalled the incident differently. 

“The fundraiser recalled they had asked the complainant to leave, because they were preventing them from giving attention to other potential donors. The fundraiser apologised if the complainant found they were rude,” it said. 

“The complainant disputed the response from the charity and raised concerns about the fact it was conducting public fundraising during the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

The Fundraising Regulator said it could not draw any conclusion about the dispute between the individuals, “because we were unable to reconcile the two conflicting accounts we were presented with”. 

But because the national guidelines at the time were to cease fundraising and the charity could not show it had down a risk assessment, there was a breach. 

The regulator recommended the charity learn from the complaint and provide better guidance to volunteer fundraisers. 

The Humanitarian and Saving Lives Trust agreed to comply with the recommendations.

The Wildheart Trust 

A member of the public complained about a fundraising appeal from the Wildheart Trust for suggesting that “that some of the animals in its zoo had suffered cruel treatment in the circuses that had previously owned the animals”. 

They said the appeal could damage the reputation of circus families. 

The regulator said that the charity was able to provide enough evidence to support its claims. 

“We found that the video set out a strong position on opposing the use of animals in circuses, but the charity did not criticise or insult any specific people or organisations. We decided that the charity had handled the complaint fairly and proportionately. We therefore found no breach of the code by the charity,” the regulator said.

Operation Smile 

A complainant was concerned about their name and address being used on fundraising material posted to them and suggested that Operation Smile had breached GDPR. 

The charity apologised to the complainant, but said it used “legitimate interest” and had made a note to ensure it did not mail the complainant again. 

“We found that the charity’s decision to use data from a third party was not a breach of the sections of the code relating to personal data,” the regulator said.

“When the complainant made their complaint, the charity responded and acted promptly.” 

Editor's note - 13 December 

This article has been updated to include comment from Asian Foundation for Help.

Fundraising Live and the Charity Technology Conference return next year. Both conferences will take place in-person in London on Wednesday 2 March 2022, and the theme will be ‘Strategies and tools for success in the new world’. Find out more and book your place here. 



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