Advice & Regulation
23 March 2012
Smile Train - Not Upheld
The complainant believes that the tagline used in Smile Train UK's appeal is threatening, intimidating and pressurised in tone.
The complainant believes that this approach is inappropriate and that Smile Train UK should stop using these tactics immediately.
Smile Train UK apologised for the fact that the complainant had remained on the charity's mailing lists and confirmed that it had now amended its records.
The charity also apologised for the fact that the complainant had felt threatened and intimidated by the appeal they received. However, the charity confirmed with the complainant that, due to the appeal's success, it would not be changing the approach.
As a consequence, the complainant contacted the Fundraising Standards Board and requested intervention at Stage 2.
Stage TWO Assessment
The Fundraising Standards Board’s Compliance Manager considered the complaint in the context of the Institute of Fundraising’s Direct Mail Code of Practice and the Fundraising Promises “We are Fair & Reasonable” and “We are Respectful”.
The complaint was considered in the context of 4 additional complaints the Fundraising Standards Board had received about the same tagline during September and October 2011.
In addition, a Stage 2 complaint investigated by the FRSB in September 2010 was revisited. At that time, it was concluded that the appeal was not in breach because there were appropriate “opt out” options included in it and, therefore, it was made clear that the public did not have to donate in order to stop receiving appeals.
Taking all of the above into account, the FRSB’s Compliance Manager came to a different conclusion on this occasion, feeling that, on balance, the tagline used by Smile Train UK could be considered to be in breach of the Direct Mail Code as well the two Fundraising Promises already highlighted.
Resolution (s) Attempted
The FRSB's Compliance Manager sent an email to Smile Train outlining his findings at Stage 2. In this email, he suggested that Smile Train change the wording in the appeal to better reflect the sensitivities of potential donors.
Smile Train responded confirming that, due to the appeal's success and the fact that it had received a significant level of positive comments from the public about the approach, it would not be revising the wording.
The FRSB's Compliance Manager sent an email back to Smile Train UK suggesting that a Stage 3 adjudication may be the best option if the charity did not wish to consider revising the appeal.
The FRSB gave Smile Train UK an additional deadline to confirm that it would not be changing the appeal and the charity did not respond in time.
The complainant subsequently confirmed in writing that they would like the complaint to be considered by the FRSB board at Stage 3.
The FRSB Board considered the complaint against Section 3.0 of the Direct Mail Code of Practice which states that organisations OUGHT to comply with the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code. Therefore, Appendix 1 of the CAP Code (the CPR's and BPR's) was considered in that context.
The Board also considered the complaint in the context of the Fundraising Promises "We are Fair & Reasonable" and "We are Respectful".
As such it was decided that, on balance, the slogan on the envelope of Smile Train UK's "One Gift" appeal was not in breach of the Code or of the Fundraising Promises.
It was noted that the appeal itself made it clear in both the accompanying FAQ's and "opt out" statements that individuals did not have to donate in order to stop receiving marketing materials from Smile Train. With this in mind, it was concluded that the appeal slogan did not constitute pressure.
Having said that, it was recognised by the Board that this was a borderline case and that the charity should be encouraged to amend the appeal in order to avoid generating similar complaints in future.
The Board wishes to make it clear that although the complaint was not upheld, this decision was made based on the evidence available at the adjudication.
Every complaint is dealt with on a case by case basis and the Fundraising Standards Board reserves the right to put any future complaints about the "One Gift" appeal through its three stage complaints process should they arise.
It was recognised by the Board that a member of the public would need to open the “One Gift” appeal in order to ascertain that they do not need to make a donation in order to stop receiving appeals from Smile Train.
The Board therefore recommended that the Fundraising Standards Board write to Smile Train UK and recommend that it makes it clearer on the appeal’s outer envelope that a donation is not required in order to prevent further appeals from being sent.
This would help to ensure that it becomes immediately apparent to the recipient that the intention of the appeal is not to pressurise potential donors into making a transactional decision that they would not otherwise have taken.
Finally, the Board would like to acknowledge the essential work that Smile Train UK does and commended the charity for being both open and transparent with the Fundraising Standards Board during the course of this complaint investigation.
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