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Top charities cause most fundraising complaints

This news post is almost 8 years old

Big charities are by far the worst culprits for annoying the public with their fundraising techniques

Fifteen of the UK’s household-name charities were responsible for 62% of all complaints made about fundraising last year.

In a year that saw complaints grow by more than a quarter, the Fundraising Standard Board (FrSB) has revealed that the biggest charities, all of which have an income of over £10m, were by far the worst offenders.

Complaints rose from 52,389 in 2014 to 66,814 in 2015 following a series of fundraising scandals, including the news that 92-year-old Olive Cooke was bombarded with fundraising requests in the months before she took her own life in May.

In the end it is not a change in regulatory structure that will restore public trust and confidence in charity fundraising - Andrew Hind

In its final report before it is replaced by the UK’s new Fundraising Regulator this month, the FrSB called on the UK’s largest charities to “seriously reflect” on their activities.

Its 2015 Complaints Report highlighted that for every complaint another 20 people are dissatisfied but don’t bother to complain, so in reality around 1.3 million people were unhappy with fundraising methods last year.

Writing in the introduction to the FRSB’s overview of fundraising complaints in 2015 report, Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: “While we must continually stress the essential need for charities to continue to fundraise energetically and innovatively, this report show that more than 66,000 people were so unhappy about a charity fundraising activity targeted at them last year that they took the time and trouble to make a formal complaint about it to the charity concerned.”

In a parting shot to those critics who criticised the FrSB for not being a strong enough regulator, Hind said: “In the end it is not a change in regulatory structure that will restore public trust and confidence in charity fundraising.

“That will only happen if charities at all sizes – but particularly the very largest organisations – seriously reflect on the experiences of the last 12 months.”

The report found more direct personalised fundraising approaches such as addressed mail, telephone calls and public collections (with the exception of cash collections) are more likely to lead to complaints than indirect approaches, such as unaddressed mail and advertising.

Around 60% of all fundraising complaints last year were about direct mail and phone calls.

Despite many charities having either stopped or cut back their telephone fundraising during the year, there was a 65% jump in the number of recorded complaints for the year, rising from 8,056 in 2014 to 13,332 in 2015. Notably, two-thirds of those were driven by a dislike of fundraising calls.

However, although charities are increasingly using email for fundraising, complaints about this method actually declined. On a like-for-like basis from 2014 to 2015, the amount of fundraising emails increased by 12% while complaints fell by 4%. Similarly to SMS fundraising (where complaints also remain low), the technique is tightly governed with charities only able to communicate with supporters on an opt-in basis.

Reassuringly for small charities nine in 10 organisations with incomes under £100,000 received no complaints about their fundraising in 2015.