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Unicef telephone fundraising breached code of practice

17 Apr 2012 News

The Fundraising Standards Board has found Unicef’s telephone fundraising in breach of the ‘Fundraising Promise’ and code of practice, but has not required the charity take any action.

The Fundraising Standards Board has found Unicef’s telephone fundraising in breach of the ‘Fundraising Promise’ and code of practice, but has not required the charity take any action.

Unicef was the subject of a complaint made by an individual registered on the TPS after they were phoned four times by the charity’s telephone fundraising agency between April and May last year. But while the FRSB has found that the charity breached two parts of the ‘Fundraising Promise’ and a section of the Code of Practice on Telephone Fundraising in making repeated calls to the individual, the regulator was satisfied with Unicef’s apology to the complainant and total review of its telephone fundraising operation and so has not made any further recommendation to the charity.

The charity had listed the complainant as a ‘warm supporter’ because, despite the fact that they had never made a donation, they had bought Unicef Christmas cards between 2000 and 2004. The complainant repeatedly asked that they be removed from the charity’s list, but was contacted twice after having reported the charity to the TPS in April.

After first going to the TPS to complain about the calls, the complaint was escalated to the FRSB in August last year. The body adjudicated on the issue in late February.

By this time, however, Unicef had undergone a comprehensive review of its telephone fundraising activities and made some significant improvements. The charity has developed an organisation-wide definition of what constitutes a ‘warm supporter’ and now screens all such supporters against the TPS register. Supporters on the TPS register are now also given opportunities to stop future calls from the charity.

The FRSB cannot disclose the name of the telephone fundraising agency which made the calls on behalf of Unicef, but civilsociety.co.uk understands that it is not a member of the regulatory body. As part of its review, Unicef also looked at the way it works with suppliers.

Jon Sparkes, chief operating officer of Unicef, said that in light of its recent changes the charity believes its “telephone fundraising services are now among the most robust in our market”.

The FRSB evidently agreed, as after receiving the report of Unicef’s review it decided not to ask for any further action from the charity.

The rights of charities to call supporters listed on the TPS have not been clear cut. Following some confusion, in May 2010 the Information Commissioner told a gathering of fundraisers that unless a sufficient number of complaints were received. 

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