17 April 2012
UNICEF UK Telephone Fundraising Complaint Upheld
The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has upheld a complaint about UNICEF UK ’s telephone fundraising, after a complainant received a series of 4 unwanted calls from the charity during March-April 2011.
The complainant had been registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) since the 1990s, but was deemed by UNICEF UK as a ‘warm donor’ having purchased Christmas cards from the charity between 2000 and 2004.
On receipt of each UNICEF UK phone call, the complainant asked the charity’s telephone fundraising agency to stop calling. After the first two calls, a complaint was addressed to the TPS in April 2011. The TPS contacted UNICEF UK alerting them to the issue and the charity responded confirming that no future calls would be made. However, two further calls were received that month.
Although the international children’s charity apologised and took immediate steps to rectify its procedures, the complainant was unsatisfied and requested the intervention of the FRSB. The complaint was handed over to the FRSB for investigation in August 2011 and the regulator worked closely with UNICEF UK to examine its telephone fundraising practice and adherence to data protection law and best practice guidance.
In the adjudication on 20 February 2012, the FRSB Adjudication Board determined that UNICEF UK had breached the Fundraising Promise clauses “We Are Honest and Open” and “We are Respectful” and section 3.5 of the Institute of Fundraising’s Telephone Fundraising Code. The complaint was upheld and the Board requested a report from UNICEF UK about the steps it would take to ensure that no further breach would occur.
The charity’s report provided evidence that UNICEF UK had undertaken a full scale review of its telephone fundraising services, making improvements that include:
- Introducing a charity-wide definition of a ‘warm supporter’;
- All data is screened against the TPS register, including ‘warm supporters’ and telephone operators acting on UNICEF UK’s behalf have been reminded of the importance of checking that the supporter is happy to continue receiving calls from the charity;
- Reducing the timeframe within which callers are removed from calling lists and;
- Ensuring that all suppliers also comply with industry standards.
The FRSB commended UNICEF UK for the robust procedures it had put in place to improve its telephone fundraising practice and required no further remedial action.
Lawrence Simanowitz, Board Member of the Fundraising Standards Board, and Partner in the charities team at Bates Wells & Braithwaite solicitors, says: “It is essential that charities respect the wishes of supporters. Acting swiftly to ensure that donor preferences are met will benefit both charities and their supporters. "
“Although the Board unanimously upheld this complaint, we felt that UNICEF UK’s subsequent internal investigation and review of its telephone fundraising services, the way it works with suppliers and its treatment of TPS registration has been exemplary.”
Jon Sparkes, Chief Operating Officer, UNICEF UK, says: “UNICEF UK accepts the FRSB ruling and we apologise to the complainant unreservedly.
“In response to this case, UNICEF UK has undertaken a swift and full scale review of our telephone fundraising services, leading to improvements in our complaints procedure, telephone marketing scripts, and the process by which we select former and current supporters for telephone contact. We believe our telephone fundraising services are now among the most robust in our market. These actions have been recognised by the FRSB as an exemplary response.
“UNICEF UK greatly values our donors, whose generous support enables us to deliver health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need worldwide. The FRSB has a vital role in protecting the donor experience and guiding the sector in best practice and we thank them for their timely intervention and guidance throughout the adjudication procedure.”
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