The media has been accused of stirring up “sensationalist nonsense” over charity fundraising by claiming that many UK charities are allowing direct mail firms to “cream off” millions of pounds in donations.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, a “confidential” Charity Commission investigation has probed the fees charged by companies running mail campaigns on behalf of the sector.
Of the 350 charities it investigated, the newspaper claims the commission chose ten at random, which spent an average of 78% of the money they raised on mailshots.
It then went on to name the ten involved, including Child Survival Fund, Gandhi World Hunger Fund, Hungry Children Project and World Relief Commission, and highlighted how many had included gifts in their mailings, such as sets of cards, gardening gloves, and calendars.
It added: “Many of the rest of the 350 charities are also thought likely to be spending the lion’s share of donations on meeting the fees charged by the firms producing the mailshots.” However, it provided no evidence of this accusation.
According to the report, most of the charities were using companies based in the US to run their direct mail campaigns, while some claimed the mailshots were for educational purposes rather than designed to raise donations.
The Sunday Times report contradicts The Good Fundraising Guide, published by the Institute of Fundraising, which insists that 79% of donations for charities come from direct mail and for every £1 spent, £4 in donations are received.
One charity agency insider told DecisionMarketing: “You would expect something a little more robust from The Sunday Times rather than this sensationalist nonsense. They have based this on ten charities, most of which no-one has even heard of.
“Obviously if you are mailing out gifts, the cost of the mailpack will soar, therefore your ROI will suffer. No doubt the Charity Commission investigation was to ensure the charities were getting value for money – and no-one would argue against that. To try to claim this practice is widespread is simply a load of rubbish. ”
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