Following information collected earlier this year regarding complaints about fundraising from a range of charities, the Fundraising Regulator published a Complaints Report in October. This report concerns complaints received about telephone marketing, door-to-door fundraising and postal communications from third sector organisations. The report aims to build on the insights previously published by the FRSB (Fundraising Standards Board) in their Annual Complaints Return and illustrates the eagerness and commitment from a multitude of organisations to improve the standards of fundraising practices.

Fundraising Complaints: The Stats

The published report revealed that over 42,000 complaints were made to charities regarding fundraising in 2016. According to the Complaints Report, 893 charities reported receiving a total of 42,782 complaints last year, mainly as a result of direct marketing. This type of marketing consists of telephone, email and addressed direct mail and was said to be the primary cause of complaints. Responsible for over 38% of complaints filed, direct marketing led to 16,131 complaints being filed. Whilst this may seem a staggeringly high figure, the Regulator has pointed out that with over 300 million pieces of addressed direct mail being sent out by these 893 charities, the ratio of complaints versus activity is in fact very low. Furthermore, over 4,000 of these complaints were reported by just four charities, each of which reported over 1,000 complaints, with one being solely responsible for almost 2,000.

The second most complained about fundraising method was door-to-door activity, which generated 6,291 complaints (16% of total complaints received), followed by 4,367 complaints regarding email fundraising, and 4,168 about clothing collections (each equating to around 10% of complaints). Telephone fundraising provoked 5% of reported complaints, whilst private site face-to-face fundraising, raffles and lotteries each caused 3% of the total number of recorded complaints.

Of those complaints lodged regarding telephone fundraising, 35% were in respect to the use of telephone calls as a method of fundraising, with a further 22% of telephone complaints being as a result of frequency of contact. In addition, there were complaints filed about the tone (10.9%) and content (7.2%) of the phone calls, with a further 8% of complaints concerning Data Protection/Permission issues for the recipients of the calls.

Making Progress with Better Practice

The Fundraising Regulator has stated that it will be placing a greater emphasis on what lessons the sector can learn from the complaints, as opposed to focusing on statistics within its report, by providing an analysis of complaints received by these charities. This will also be accompanied by an overview of its regulatory activity in 2016 - this is to help the charities improve their standards of fundraising practices going forward as opposed to negatively dwelling on their past mistakes.

Many charities like Asthma UK and Hearing Dogs for Deaf Peopleare proud to associate themselves with the regulator pay close attention to keeping their processes in-line with the Regulators guidance.

Cooperation in the Sector

The Fundraising Regulator has said that charity engagement with their complaints reporting process has been extremely encouraging and that a range of charities who were not previously members of the FRSB, but who pay the Regulators levy had conveyed an interest in taking part.

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator, Stephen Dunmore said:

This report is a helpful and informative document which demonstrates the nature of complaints made by the public about fundraising practices and the positive progress made by the sector in addressing these concerns.

We are delighted to have received nearly 900 responses, demonstrating the collaborative nature of the sector, as we work together to learn from complaints in order to improve public confidence in fundraising practices.

The Regulator is introducing a new complaints procedure guidance document, which is currently in development.

A Unifying Body

The Fundraising Regulator works closely with charities and fundraising platforms to promote good common practice in the third sector. In recent years the sector has suffered from a loss in public confidence. Despite the endless and admirable work charities undertake every day, it is important that good practice is ALWAYS followed. Charities and fundraising sites are encouraged to register with The Fundraising Regulator which provides clear guidance on everything from fundraising in shopping centres to online donation platforms.