The head of the Fundraising Standards Board has claimed that the 66,000-plus complaints about charity fundraising in 2015 are just the tip of the iceberg, insisting that 1.3 million people were likely to have been dissatisfied by the impact that a fundraising technique had on them last year.
The claim is unprecedented as the FRSB is normally at pains to suggest that charity fundraising complaints are minimal compared to the volume of activity. According to the FRSB’s annual report – the organisation’s last before being replaced by the new Fundraising Regulator on July 7 – complaints about charity marketing rose just a 6% over the past year to 66,814.
But chair Andrew Hind pointed to a recent Future Foundation study which claimed for every complaint received there are 20 other people who are also dissatisfied but who do not bother to complain.
Hind added: “The stark reality identified by this report is therefore that, in all likelihood, some 1.3 million people were dissatisfied by the impact that a charity fundraising technique had on them in 2015. That’s enough unhappy people to fill Wembley stadium 15 times over.”
The report establishes that 500 of the nation’s biggest fundraising charities are responsible for the large majority (98%) of both fundraising activities and complaints, with nine in ten small charities recording no complaints about their fundraising. Just 1% of reporting charities (all with a voluntary income of £10m and over) generate six in ten complaints.
Addressed mail and telephone fundraising are the methods that attract the highest numbers of complaints, accounting for 60% of all fundraising complaints, although they are both by far the most widely used techniques. The report finds that over a third (35%) of charity fundraising complaints were prompted by a general dislike of fundraising methods.
While many changes have been made to charity fundraising standards over the past year – a stronger regulatory framework is to be introduced this week and the proposed Fundraising Preference Service later this year – the report emphasises the need for charities to ensure that supporters’ views remain central to all future fundraising approaches.
Hind added: “While we must continually stress the essential need for charities to fundraise energetically and innovatively, charities must find ways to ensure that their fundraising approaches minimise any concern to the public. Fundraising should always be a positive experience that reflects the charity’s own values and the importance of its supporters.
“The public’s dislike of some fundraising methods highlights the need for charities to listen ever more carefully to supporter feedback and adapt their fundraising strategies in line with those views.
“2015 was a turning point in the relationship between charities and the UK public. During the year, the sector made many improvements to fundraising standards and a new regulatory structure is to be launched later this week. But in the end, charity fundraising will only achieve its potential and public trust be fully restored if charities ensure that their future fundraising is undertaken in a way which always commands the respect and approval of their supporters and the general public.”
Commenting on the report, Stephen Dunmore, acting chief executive of the new Fundraising Regulator, said: “Complaint monitoring is an important analytical tool to help regulators and fundraising practitioners alike understand where public concerns lie.
“As we pick up the reins for regulating charity fundraising later this week, we recognise the critical importance of identifying and addressing concerns from the public. This will remain a key focus for self-regulation of fundraising. Without that overview, charities cannot re-build public confidence in their work and restore trust in the way that essential funds are raised.”
Top 10 Fundraising Methods Prompting Complaint in 2015
1) Addressed mail (27,089)
2) Telephone fundraising (13,322)
3) Doorstep face-to-face (8,497)
4) Clothing collections (5,342)
5) Email fundraising (2,441)
6) Outdoor events (1,634)
7) Private site face-to-face (1,359)
8) Lotteries (1,094)
9) Street face-to-face (1,033)
10) Raffles (855)
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