Fundraising breach by four major charities
The FundRaising Standards Board (FRSB), a UK wide fundraising self-regulator, has held four well-known charities in breach of the Fundraising Code based on the activities of an external fundraising agent.
In summer last year, The Daily Mail reported on a three-week undercover investigation into GoGen Ltd (GoGen) who were a telephone fundraising agency. The Daily Mail alleged that, through GoGen, some UK charities were “ruthlessly hounding vulnerable people for cash” (unsurprisingly, GoGen are no longer trading after the majority of their charity clients went elsewhere in light of these allegations).
In particular, allegations were made that GoGen had called Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registered numbers (TPS is service which allows individuals to opt out of receiving marketing calls) on behalf of four leading charities: the British Red Cross, Macmillan Cancer Support, Oxfam and the NSPCC (the four charities).
What did the FRSB say?
The Daily Mail’s allegations of poor fundraising practices led to a FRSB investigation of the four charities and their compliance with the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice (the Fundraising Code). The FRSB issued their report on the investigations earlier this week. We have outlined and summarised their findings below:
- Monitor third parties. To comply with the Fundraising Code all charitable organisations must check, and make all reasonable efforts to ensure, the on-going compliance of third parties with the Fundraising Code and their legal requirements. The FRSB found that all four of the charities had breached this requirement as they had all failed to monitor the fundraising activities of GoGen appropriately.
- Privacy notices and consent. The Fundraising Code states that donors must not be misled or deceived as to how their information will be used and how the organisation will contact them in the future. The privacy notices adopted by MacMillan Cancer Support and the British Red Cross’s were deemed misleading as they did not make it sufficiently clear to supporters how their information would be used and the type of contact they would receive.
- TPS Policies. Organisations are prevented from making direct marketing calls to TPS registered persons under the Code unless a registered person has notified that they are happy to receive the calls. All four of the charities were deemed compliant with this requirement.
What steps can charities take to prevent fundraising breaches?
The Fundraising Code currently applies to Scottish charities and charities in England and Wales, and although this may change due to ongoing reform in the regulation of fundraising (more of which will be reported in our upcoming Third Sector Spring 2016 Newsletter), the FRSB report provides useful recommendations to the fundraising sector for compliance with fundraising rules that can and should be implemented now:
- Your third party fundraising agency will organise training for its staff at the commencement of any new campaign, attend the training, this will make the charitable organisation aware of how fundraisers are being trained to represent them;
- Embed staff members into the third party fundraising agencies – this will provide additional scrutiny;
- Consider the donation targets given to external agencies – if they are too high this could cause external fundraiser to unduly pressure donators;
- Solicitation statements should be delivered before a potential supporter provides their bank details to ensure that the supporter makes a fully informed decision to donate;
- Vulnerable peoples policy should be adopted by all charities which use telephone fundraising.
What charitable organisations must take from this FRSB finding:
- It is the charitable organisation that is responsible for, and must monitor, the fundraising activities of any external fundraisers appointed by them;
- Charitable originations must ensure that their privacy notice is comprehensive and legally compliant, so that they have the participators valid consent to be contacted for fundraising purposes – inadequate data measures may lead to a breach of the Fundraising Code, data protection law and privacy laws.
MacRoberts’ can assist and advise any organisation seeking guidance on fundraising compliance and best practice.