The RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home have been chastised by the charity regulator for failing to monitor an agency which worked for them, after it was discovered Fundraising Initiatives had deliberately misled at least one local authority about its face-to-face activity.
In an adjudication report, the Fundraising Standards Board ruled that the now defunct agency hoodwinked a number of organisations when booking space for face-to-face activity on private sites, in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice.
One complainant contacted both charities between July and September last year to raise concerns that neither appeared to be aware that the agency was carrying out face-to-face campaigns on private sites, including supermarkets and shopping centres, with the aim of securing direct debit donations.
The complainant claimed that neither charity knew Fundraising Initiatives was allegedly misinforming the owners of the sites about the nature of its activities. Fundraisers were also failing to deliver the required solicitation statement when talking to prospective donors, the complainant alleged.
The FRSB’s ruling found that Fundraising Initiatives, which went into administration in October, had told the person responsible for booking fundraising sites for Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire that the agency intended to run an awareness-building campaign when in fact it would be trying to secure direct debit donations.
Because the agency was operating on behalf of the two charities, this meant all three organisations were in breach of the fundraising code, which states: “Fundraising communications must not mislead, or be clearly likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.”
The three organisations had also breached the code because the agency’s fundraisers solicited for direct debits on sites that did not permit such activity, the FRSB ruled.
But the regulator found there was insufficient evidence to show that agency fundraisers had failed to deliver a solicitation statement when making fundraising pitches on behalf of the two charities.
The report acknowledged that both charities had undertaken “significant remedial action over the past six months to address the shortcomings that had been identified”.
The FRSB has now been replaced by the Fundraising Regulator but it has been completing a number of unfinished investigations in conjunction with the new body. Interim chief executive Stephen Dunmore said it was considering what further action needed to be taken.
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