Interim investigation report published

FRSB Interim Report Calls for Donors to Be Given More Control Over Charity Fundraising Approaches

In an interim investigation report published today(09 June 2015), the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has called for the public to be given more control over the way that charities communicate with them, making it easier for people to opt out of unwanted contact.

The FRSB’s investigation into charity fundraising practices was launched on 18th May 2015, prompted by allegations that volunteer fundraiser Mrs Cooke was overwhelmed by fundraising requests. It commenced shortly after the Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement asking the FRSB to investigate, which was supported by Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, calling for ‘thorough and swift action’ to restore public trust.

The interim report presents initial findings in terms of public complaints generated following Mrs Cooke’s death and identifies areas of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice that could be strengthened to address these concerns from the public. The FRSB has called for the Code to be revised to:

  • Provide greater clarity about the rules for gaining donor consent, which includes the requirement for charities to provide clear and easy ways for individuals to opt out of further communication;
  • Limit the frequency of charity approaches per year;
  • Expand current guidance for communicating with older supporters and those in vulnerable circumstances;
  • Remove the current Code reference stating that fundraisers can use ‘reasonable persuasion’;
  • Make it clear that permission must be granted by an individual before their personal information can be passed on to third parties (a requirement of the Data Protection Act);
  • Clarify that charities cannot call people that are registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), unless the individual has given clear permission to receive calls.

Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, says: “Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many people who recognise the vital work that charities do and the pressing need for donations to fund that work, but they also feel that charities are asking too often. The collective experience of being approached by many charities simultaneously compounds things further.

“The public wants greater clarity and more control over how their contact details are being used and the amount of times they will be asked to give. Although the Code already makes it clear that charities must respect donors’ preferences in terms of the way they are contacted, how their details are used and the amount of times they can be approached, we want to see charities making those options much more evident.”

“We are looking to the Institute of Fundraising’s Standards Committee to review how donors’ current concerns can be addressed by strengthening the Code of Fundraising Practice. Essentially, we want the public to be given more control over the way they are approached by charities and for further safeguards to be put in place when it comes to fundraising requests of the elderly and vulnerable.”

Between 15th May and 5th June 2015, the FRSB received a total of 384 complaints. The interim report addresses donors’ collective experiences of fundraising, in addition to concerns raised about charity-specific practices.

Of the complaints raised, four in ten (42%) of those complaints addressed the frequency of charity communications and over a third (35%) of concerns were specific to fundraising approaches made to the elderly or vulnerable people. One in six complaints (16%) were about how consent is given for charities’ use of contact data, with concerns that the current opting out measures for charity communications was unclear. One in three complaints addressed fundraising by specific charities and will be channeled through the FRSB’s three-stage complaints process.

The FRSB will present the interim report to the Institute of Fundraising’s Standards Committee at its next meeting on Wednesday 10th June 2015. The Standards Committee is responsible for setting the standards for charity fundraising in the UK. The Institute of Fundraising has committed to review its Code of Fundraising Practice and relevant guidance in light of the investigation findings.

The full interim report is available in PDF format.

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