Four of the UK’s leading charities – British Red Cross, Macmillan, NSPCC and Oxfam – have been battered by the charity regulator for breaching the fundraising code following a 10-month investigation into their relationships with telemarketing agency GoGen.
The Fundraising Standards Board’s probe was launched last July after the Daily Mail published an undercover investigative report into GoGen’s practices.
The allegations included claims that the charities were exploiting loopholes in the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and deliberately ‘hounding’ the vulnerable and elderly for donations over the telephone.
GoGen ceased trading just weeks after the Mail report was published, citing a reduction in business from what it claimed was “misleading media coverage”.
However, the FRSB’s investigation found many of the Mail’s claims did ring true and that the charities involved had failed to adequately monitor GoGen’s fundraising activities.
While all four charities had monitoring procedures in place, they were not sufficient or adequately carried out.
Macmillan and the British Red Cross were also found to have breached industry guidelines by failing to make it clear to supporters how their contact data may be used.
Controversially, the FRSB did not uphold allegations against the four charities – and GoGen – that they were exploiting TPS loopholes, as to coin a phrase, “they were only following orders”.
At the time, the Institute of Fundraising’s advice was that charities could contact TPS-registered donors if they judged that their relationship with those donors was sufficient. It has since emerged that charities were warned against this practice by the Information Commissioner’s Office, although most ignored the warnings.
Amendments have since been made to this section of the code, making it clear that explicit consent must be obtained from TPS-registered individuals before a telephone fundraising approach can be made.
Each of the four charities involved in the investigation has implemented significant changes since last summer, which include closer monitoring of third parties to ensure compliance with the code, increased spot checks, mystery shopping and listening in to more calls, the FRSB report insists.
FRSB chair Andrew Hind said: “Working with telephone fundraising agencies can be an important way for charities to reach out to new and existing supporters, but it is essential that any fundraising activity meets standards laid out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.
“While this investigation outlines a number of failings at the agency, ultimate responsibility always rests with charities for the conduct of any third-party agencies representing them. We welcome the significant actions that each charity has since undertaken to ensure closer working with any agencies they work with in the future, including better monitoring and supervision procedures.”
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