The annual FRSB fundraising complaints data is out and it looks good. A little too good for some charities, says Celina Ribeiro.
So the annual Fundraising Standards Board complaints report is out.
They stats are looking good, aren’t they? At first sight the numbers seem rather large. More than 30,000 complaints logged by charities last year. That’s a fair chunk of complaints. But don’t panic. When considered against an estimated 9.6bn fundraising contacts with members of the public, the complaint numbers are pretty miniscule. Phew. Nice job, fundraisers.
Nice job in particular to the two-thirds of Fundraising Standards Board members which reported not receiving a single complaint in all of 2011. You must tell the rest of the sector your secret. Go on! I’m sure all the other charities which have logged and reported their hundreds of complaints would love to know how you do it.
Is it possible that 67 per cent of FRSB members did not get one single phone call alerting them to the fact that their direct mail addressed a Mr not a Mrs? That none of these charities received a solitary, hand-written letter from someone with way too much time on their hands asking why it is your charity has mailed them three times already this year? Perhaps it is. But what is more likely is that many charities are not recording complaints. Not out of a desire to fudge the numbers, I’m sure, but rather because all said, recording complaints is probably just a bit of an administrative burden too far for some.
The FRSB is pretty unequivocal about what constitutes a complaint. It is “an expression of dissatisfaction whether justified or not”. So that even means every time someone gets in touch to ask to be removed from a mailing list (an example lifted straight from the FRSB website). That means the trivial and the cranks as well as the genuine stuff.
Let’s be clear. Is there a massive problem with the quality or tone of fundraising in this country? No. It’s a pretty clean industry. But given that those who complain represent only the tip of the iceberg of the dissatisfied, is it not rather critical that all charities make an effort to measure that iceberg tip?
Charities must not be afraid of complaints or shy away from criticism. It does not mean you’re failing. It means that maybe you’re not perfect. And it means you can get better, which all charities – as good as they are – have a duty to do.