3 in 4 charity donors would not donate to a charity which had failed to file its financial information

3 in 4 adults (76%) would not donate to a charity which had failed to submit its financial accounts and returns to the Charity Commission, according to an independent ICM poll commissioned by the charity regulator and the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), the self-regulatory body for UK fundraising.

Christmas is a traditional time for giving and charities work hard to raise money during this period to fund their work. 85% of people give directly to charity at Christmas, donating an average of around £40 to the good causes they care about.

However, charities risk missing out on vital donations if they fail to submit their financial information to the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. Annual documents are a key way charities remain accountable and transparent to the public. A charity’s Register profile highlights that it is a legitimate registered charity, and shows whether it is up to date with its financial accounts and returns. A red ‘late’ flag on an organisation’s register profile sends a warning signal to potential donors. With 67% of respondents saying they are likely to make checks before giving in the future now they are aware of the issue, charities should be ensuring their record appears clean to potential donors.

Almost all collections are genuine, but some people will try to abuse the generosity of others for their own gain. The public has a key part to play in keeping charities accountable by using the resources available to them; however, 43% of adults never make any checks when approached by a collector for a charitable donation. Asking the collector for ID, looking for the FRSB ‘give with confidence’ tick and checking the Charity Commission’s online Register are all simple checks the public can carry out to ensure their money goes to the right cause.

When asked about the current checks donors make before giving:

  • 39% of donors ask collectors for ID or question them about the organisation
  • 27% of donors check that it is a registered charity
  • One in five (20%) respondents (excl. Scotland) always or mostly check for the FRSB ‘give with confidence’ tick branding, which indicates that the charity’s fundraising is regulated.
  • Respondents aged 18-24 and over 65 are least likely to make checks before donating, with 49% and 46% respectively failing to do so.
  • Overall, women make more checks than men, with 30% of female respondents checking for a registered charity number when approached, compared to 24% of males.
  • The most popular ways of giving at Christmas time are purchasing Christmas cards and other goods (64%), cash collections (53%), raffles and lotteries (44%) and bag/household goods collections (43%).
  • Men give directly to charities an average of £52 at Christmas time, with women donating an average of £27.

Sam Younger, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:

‘Whilst it is encouraging to see levels of giving remaining high and many people taking steps to check whether a charity is registered before donating, this research shows there is still much to be done by both the public and charities themselves to ensure organisations remain accountable. We will not tolerate charities that fail to meet reporting requirements, and our enforcement action* continues to target these breaches of duty. However, the public needs to work alongside us and use the resources available to them to make checks before giving. Last year, there were 6.5 million successful searches for a charity on the Commission’s online Register. Charities should be aware that potential donors are checking their details, and we are encouraging those donors not to give to charities that send in their accounts late.’

Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said:

“Christmas is a key period for charitable giving, with many charities relying on money raised during the winter months to fund vital services throughout the year. Donors give generously, but increasingly questions are being asked and concerns raised with us at the FRSB about the legitimacy of fundraising campaigns. Although bogus fundraising remains rare, it is essential that we all do what we can to make it increasingly difficult for criminals to cheat charities and their supporters. For donors, this means being aware and, if in doubt, making a few simple checks before giving. Above all, keep on giving. Your donations could make a critical difference to the good causes you care about this Christmas.”

The public should follow the tips below to continue to give safely and avoid charity scams this Christmas:

  1. Before giving, check the charity’s name and registration number. You can verify this at the Charity Commission’s website at www.charitycommission.gov.uk. The charity’s profile shows whether or not the organisation is up to date with its annual reporting requirements.
  2. When approached by collectors, check whether they are wearing a proper ID badge and that any collection tin is sealed.
  3. If in doubt, ask the collector for more information – a genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
  4. Genuine fundraising materials should feature the charity’s name, registered name and a landline contact number. Be wary of those that list only a mobile number.
  5. Look for the FRSB tick logo indicating that the charity is signed up to fundraising regulation, encouraging you to give with confidence. www.frsb.org.uk
  6. To check whether a fundraiser is authorised to collect money in a public place, contact your local authority or, if in London, the police. If it is a private place, check with the owner.
  7. Take care when responding to emails or clicking links to a charity’s website to ensure that they are genuine. Instead, search online for your favourite charity to check you have the right web address.
  8. Carefully review collection bags for clothing and household goods to ascertain whether they are from a genuine charity.
  9. After making these checks, if you think that a collection or appeal is not legitimate, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 and inform the Charity Commission.
  10. If in any doubt, contact your favoured charity direct to make a donation.

*In September 2013, the Charity Commission opened a class inquiry into charities that are in default of their statutory obligations to meet reporting requirements by failing to file their annual documents for two or more years in the last five years. However, in order to make this latest enforcement step truly effective, the public and charities themselves also need to play their part in ensuring organisations are held accountable.

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