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Oxfam fundraiser breached FRSB code of practice

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Fundraising agency hauled over coals for breaches after being exposed by newspaper

A fundraising agency working on behalf of Oxfam breached the Fundraising Standard Board (FRSB) code of practice, an investigation has found.

The FRSB judged that fundraising agency Listen Ltd placed “undue pressure” on the public to donate during a campaign undertaken on behalf of Oxfam although it cleared it of targeting the elderly.

An investigation was undertaken after the Mail on Sunday, in June 2015, claimed that Oxfam was deliberately targeting elderly supporters.

In an adjudication the FRSB said that while it could find no evidence that either Oxfam or Listen “expressly targeted elderly supporters”, the regulator still found that “several clauses” of the Code of Fundraising practice had been breached.

Oxfam, however, had “reasonable procedures” in place when it came to monitoring Listen’s activities in its name, the investigation found.

Despite this, the FRSB found that the charity didn’t carry out checks to “ensure ongoing compliance” by Listen Ltd to the Code of Fundraising Practice. The charity also failed to ensure that a “clear opt out message” was included in all SMS text responses to donations.

We are concerned that this campaign was non-compliant in several areas - Mark Goldring

Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: “It is important to be clear that we found no evidence to substantiate The Mail on Sunday`s assertion that Oxfam was targeting elderly supporters in this campaign.

"However, having identified several breaches of the Code, we are concerned that this campaign was non-compliant in several areas and that some fault lay with each of the three organisations involved.”

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “We are pleased that the FRSB has cleared us of the most serious accusation made by the Mail on Sunday. We have always been clear that their headline claim that we targeted elderly or vulnerable people in our fundraising is, as the FRSB has found, not only misleading but completely untrue.

"Nevertheless, we recognise that the Mail on Sunday highlighted practices that did not meet the high standards we expect of those fundraising on our behalf and that were not picked up by our own monitoring systems.”

A Listen Ltd spokesman said: “We are pleased the FRSB dismissed the allegation that we had breached the ‘respectful principle’, and that it acknowledges that Listen “has a robust policy in place for managing conversations with vulnerable people.

“We moved quickly to address any evidence of practice that fell below our normal high standards and our proactivity has meant that all of the subsequent recommendations made by the FRSB have been in place for several months now.”