It’s fair to say that 2015 has been such a tough year for charities that even the term annus horribilis doesn’t quite cut it; not that they are entirely without blame.
It all started in May with the suicide of 92-year-old Olive Cooke, said to be the UK’s longest serving poppy seller. The ensuing press coverage – sparked by her family’s claim that she had been inundated with fundraising mailings – triggered a chain of events that has seen the biggest shake-up of charity marketing for a generation.
Even the outgoing Fundraising Standards Board chairman Colin Lloyd conceded that the sector was “out of control”. More than 600 jobs went within weeks as two telemarketing agencies folded, while many charities were accused of using illegal marketing data to fuel their campaigns.
One of the key factors was that the Institute of Fundraising’s telemarketing guidance was two years out of date, forcing the Information Commissioner’s Office to re-release the rules it had first introduced back in 2013, which stipulate that all data – even a charity’s own database – must be screened against the Telephone Preference Service before a campaign can begin.
Many cried foul, charity bosses even tried to blame their agencies; then came Sir Stuart Etherington’s Regulating Fundraising for the Future report, backed by the Government. It recommended sweeping changes, including a move to opt-in only, marketing bans for charities which break the rules, the introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) and even the threat of taking legal action against persistent offenders.
There were accusations that his proposals were a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and even Information Commissioner Christopher Graham warned of a charity witch-hunt.
The predictions of what the new measures would cost the sector soon followed. The RNLI reckoned moving to opt-in only would rip a £36m hole in its finances; another estimate claimed it would cost the sector £2bn by 2020. More worryingly, the REaD Group put the figure closer to £5bn a year.
When push came to shove, however, many of the more draconian measures were dropped, although the threat of introducing statutory regulation for the sector remains, amid claims it is in the last chance saloon.
A new regulator is imminent, with Lord Michael Grade as its interim chairman. The chief executive role could well be a poisoned chalice; and it will be a brave person to take it on given the fact that fresh claims about fundraising malpractice continue to be exposed.
The new boss will certainly have his or her work cut out; they will have to rebuild trust, get all charities onboard, stamp out miscreants, and ensure fundraisers are no longer seen as money-grabbers, to name just a few of the tasks. It is a job that makes the 12 Labours of Hercules look like a picnic…
St John Ambulance in dock over targeting vulnerable
Charities escape legal threat in last chance saloon
Etherington charity slams Charity Commission plan
Charities to lose £5bn a year, says REaD group study
Reforms to exterminate £2bn from charity sector
Macmillan fesses up to last year’s ICO TPS warning
Grade becomes charity enforcer but critics fume
Etherington calls urgent summit of top UK charities
Charities face legal threat over new marketing rules
Opt-in switch to rip £36m hole in RNLI’s finances
Graham slams ‘confusing’ charity preference service
Charity rules ludicrous, say agencies
IoF data advice two years out of date
Charities face marketing activity ban
Charity rethink branded incompetent
Charity chiefs lay blame on agencies
FRSB axed in charity marketing purge
ICO warns of charity witch-hunt
Charities flayed in new data row
Charities rocked by ICO call demands
600 jobs go as charity backlash bites
Charities cleared over Olive’s suicide
Colin Lloyd: fundraising out of control
Save the Children to axe cold calling
Industry staggered by BBC ignorance
Minister demands charity action
Charities using illegal marketing data
Charities hit again as row escalates
Charities in dock over donor blitz
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