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Charity warned after it breached fundraising code

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Health charity slammed for misleading campaign which ended up asking the public for donations

A leading charity has been slated for breaching the Code of Fundraising Practice.

Diabetes UK was found by the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) to have breached four clauses of the Institute of Fundraising’s code while an agency hired by the charity was found to have breached one of its clauses.

The ruling involved Diabetes UK’s pedometer campaign in which members of the public were invited to receive a free pedometer if they texted a specific number.

But complaints were made after all those who texted received a phone call asking for a £10 a month donation.

Thousands responded after the charity mounted TV, radio and print adverts urging the public to claim the free gadgets.

A company called Listen then contacted the respondents asking for their address as well as a donation.

The Fundraising Standards Board’s (FRSB) adjudication report concluded that opt-out statements in the campaign materials were inconspicuous and inadequate and the bounce back text received after expressing interest in the campaign materials did not offer an opportunity to opt out of the fundraising call.

Diabetes UK’s pedometer campaign was not solely designed to assist the public by raising awareness of diabetes

One complainant said that when she was contacted by Listen she had only expected a call asking for her postal address.

She also felt the telephone fundraiser “put her under pressure to donate and had been patronising when she stated she couldn’t donate” due to health reasons.

Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: “Diabetes UK’s pedometer campaign was not solely designed to assist the public by raising awareness of diabetes.

"It also had a clear motive to solicit contact details for a subsequent fundraising approach to those who responded. As a result, we have concluded that the charity’s campaign misled the public.”

In its ruling the FRSB said the campaign misled “more than 25,000” respondents as to how their personal data would be used, that the campaign had a “clear ulterior motive to solicit contact details” and that it had not “secured proper consents from respondents” before making fundraising calls to them.

It has recommended a number of actions to be taken as a result of the findings including a clearer opt out strategy for respondents; issue an apology to the lead complainant; and to check all respondents against the Telephone Preference Service to see if they have already opted-out from contact.

A spokesman for Diabetes UK said: “We accept the FRSB’s ruling that, on this occasion, we made a mistake and should have been clearer that as well as sending people a pedometer and guide to diabetes, we also planned to ask them to become a financial supporter, as well as given them the chance to opt out.

“We have already apologised to the person who complained and we have learned from this. We will be making sure we are crystal clear in all our future fundraising work about whether people are likely to be asked for a donation.”

The IoF said it welcomed Diabetes UK’s apology and its reassurance it will make changes to future campaigns in response to the ruling.