Seven charities, including RNIB, Unicef and Save the Children, have been battered by the Fundraising Regulator for being so obsessed with how much money their agency was raising that they allowed the business to ride roughshod over donors as well as the fundraising code.
The regulator launched its investigation in July following an undercover investigation by The Sun newspaper which claimed Neet Feet fundraisers were encouraged to approach elderly and vulnerable people with aggressive doorstep techniques and visit properties that displayed “no-cold-calling stickers”.
The other four charities involved were Action for Children, the disability charity Hft, Smile Train and World Animal Protection.
The agency went bust within a fortnight of the report although not before it left a string of debts – including nearly £100,000 owed to Action for Children. Neet Feet director and co-founder Jez O’Neill has since branded the story a “complete set-up”.
The 29-page adjudication found that the charities breached the code by not employing “all reasonable efforts” to ensure Neet Feet fundraised for them in compliance with the code.
Meanwhile, the regulator says that Neet Feet breached six sections of the code by being derogatory to the public, accepting donations from vulnerable people, being unreasonably persistent and misleading in pressuring donors, fundraising under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and not employing best efforts to ensure donors were over the age of 18.
An eighth charity, The Children’s Trust, was cleared in the report after the regulator ruled it had taken “all reasonable efforts” to ensure the agency adhered to the code.
The report concludes that the seven charities seemed to be disproportionately focused on how much money was being raised rather than how it was raised. It says that more attention should have been paid to the experience of the donor.
The regulator has now asked the charities concerned to assure themselves that the internal reviews they each carried out because of this case were “thorough and robust and identified all possible learning”.
Each of the charities’ chief executives has been asked to confirm to the regulator within three months that such assurance has been obtained and to confirm how they responded to the regulator’s decision and what further action has been taken.
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