The Royal British Legion has been battered by the charity regulator for failing to adequately monitor its sales promotion agency and prevent its staff from persuading potential donors using decidedly dubious methods.
In one of the final investigations to be carried out by the Fundraising Standards Board, it was found that the British Legion breached the Code of Fundraising Practice by giving agency Magnum Direct free rein to seemingly do what it wanted.
Magnum Direct, whose door-to-door fundraisers were employed by the charity to sign householders to direct debits for its Poppy Lottery, also breached the code during fundraising approaches and training sessions, the FRSB said.
The regulator launched an investigation in August 2015 after The Mail on Sunday reported that a paid fundraiser at Magnum Direct was claiming to be an unpaid volunteer, while working on behalf of the British Legion.
The newspaper also alleged that donors were potentially being misled about the use of their money and that fundraisers were being told to ignore “no-cold-caller” notices.
The FRSB said that Magnum Direct’s code breaches included failing to use solicitation statements, providing misleading information about how a donor’s funds would be used and advocating putting pressure on the public to give.
The FRSB, which has one more investigation in the pipeline, said it had received transcripts of audio recordings and video footage from The Mail on Sunday, which proved that Magnum Direct trainers had encouraged a trainee fundraiser to falsely claim they were a volunteer.
The trainers also failed to train staff to deliver solicitation statements – a legal requirement of all paid fundraisers. The FRSB said it was concerned that the contractual agreement between the British Legion and Magnum Direct did not make any reference to the legal requirement for sales agents to deliver such statements.
The FRSB found that Magnum Direct fundraiser breached the code by telling prospective donors they were raising £3.5m for a rehabilitation centre for injured troops when the money was actually destined for the charity’s general funds.
It also found that Magnum sales agents were trained to knock on doors displaying no-cold-calling stickers, in contravention of the fundraising code.
The charity terminated its partnership with Magnum Direct within weeks of story appearing. A spokesman for the charity said: “Following an urgent Legion investigation into allegations in August 2015 that identified poor working practice, we moved quickly to terminate our relationship with Magnum Direct. The Legion no longer engages in any doorstep fundraising activity.
“Our practices are under constant review to ensure we are working to the highest of standards and we welcome the FRSB’s report as a further opportunity for review.”
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