Charities finally advised how to avoid agency horror

sun charity 2The Institute of Fundraising is aiming to tackle head-on the seemingly disastrous relationships between many charities and their agencies which, it is claimed, have been a major factor in the sector’s current malaise.
A new IoF “idiot’s guide”, entitled Successful Partnerships for Sustainable Fundraising, follows a spate of negative publicity for the sector in which it has appeared that charities are virtually clueless about what their agencies are doing.
The issue first emerged in September last year when the bosses of Oxfam, NSPCC, Save the Children and RSPCA told the Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee that their own marketing agencies were to blame for the uproar over aggressive fundraising practices, maintaining they were as shocked as anyone about the level of abuse.
Over the past few weeks alone, the British Red Cross, Macmillan, NSPCC and Oxfam have been battered for breaching the fundraising code following a 10-month investigation into their relationships with telemarketing agency GoGen.
Save the Children, Children’s Trust, Unicef UK, and Action for Children were found to have been using a face-to-face agency that targeted elderly people with aggressive doorstep techniques (pictured).
And just 10 days ago the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home were chastised for failing to monitor an agency which worked for them, after it was discovered agency bosses had deliberately misled at least one local authority about face-to-face activity.
Speaking about the new guide, Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, said: “We wanted to give charities a practical guide to help them decide if it’s right for them to be working with an agency, the questions to ask, and ideas on how to manage the relationship appropriately.”
However, most of the recommendations have been standard practice for years. For instance, the guide states that charities should listen in on telemarketing calls that are selected randomly from a mix of outcomes – such as agreeing or declining to donate – and that they do this with a consistent frequency, so they can identify and address issues as they occur.
“It is also recommended that you look at call recording lists and look for any patterns of behaviour,” it states. “For example, a large number of very short calls might indicate that supporters are not interested in taking the call from you.”
For working with face to face agencies, it says that although the Public Fundraising Association has a mystery shopping programme for street fundraising, charities might also want to do some in-house monitoring to complement this, as well as appointing a third-party mystery shopper.
Fundraising Regulator chief executive Stephen Dunmore said the guidance would help charities to understand their responsibilities in contracting with, and monitoring, third parties.
“It is imperative that every aspect of the fundraising relationship is carefully considered by both charities and agencies, to ensure the public can have confidence in fundraising practice and to protect charities from reputational and financial risk,” he said.
However one industry insider said: “Talk about the basics, any reputable business should already have been offering these services to clients for years. The fact is that charities have had their heads stuck in the sand for decades.
“When you buy in agency services purely on price, you get what you pay for, which, in most of these cases has been nothing short of outrageous. They only have themselves to blame for not properly monitoring what is going on. Will this guide change anything? Only for those who have been caught; I suspect the others will carry on regardless.”

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