Charities and agencies given 60,000 penalty points for street fundraising breaches

Figures from the PFRA's first Street Compliance Benchmark show that the fundraising regulator carried out 1,283 compliance visits in the year to August

Street fundraising
Street fundraising

Charities and agencies were issued with a total of almost 60,000 penalty points for breaching street fundraising rules in the 12 months to August, according to new figures released by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.

The face-to-face fundraising regulator today published its first Street Compliance Benchmark, covering the period September 2012 to August this year.

It shows that fundraising teams were issued with an average of 46 penalty points each time they were compliance-checked.

The PFRA carried out 1,283 compliance visits during the 12-month period, the report says. Each visit involves one team being either mystery-shopped by one of the PFRA’s specialist subcontractors, or being observed by the regulator's compliance officer.

Charities and agencies were issued a total of 59,018 points. Each provider receives between 25 and 150 compliance checks a year, depending on how much fundraising they do, the PFRA said.

The benchmark shows that fundraising teams received an average of 35 points for breaching conduct rules, those relating to professional standards, per compliance visit, and an average of 12 points per visit for breaching operational rules, which are those relating to compliance with conditions set out in the charity’s fundraising agreement with the local authority.

Charities and agencies have been receiving penalties of 20, 50 or 100 points for breaching the PFRA rule book since the launch of the sanctions regime in August 2012. If an organisation receives more than 1,000 points in a financial year, it is fined £1 per point.

The benchmark shows the variation in the total average points awarded each month. It started with a high of an average 83 points per compliance visit in September 2012 and fell to a low of 21 points per visit in April this year. But the monthly total began to climb again in May, jumping to an average of 79 points in July.

Nick Henry, the PFRA’s head of standards and allocations, said: "The rise in penalties during the summer was a bit of a surprise. Some of our charity members have suggested that this might be because of the numbers of students being taken on for summer jobs, who might not be as well versed in the rules as more experienced staff."

He said the PFRA would see if this was repeated in future benchmarks and consider if any measures would be needed to tackle the issue.

"As this is the first year, we can’t really say much about what this says about professional standards," said Henry. "Forty-six points is the equivalent to having half a team member working outside the agreed zone or two fundraisers standing too close to a zebra crossing. We hope that future editions of the SCB will show that our compliance and enforcement are driving down these averages."

The PFRA said this first benchmark was an interim report on the first full year of the penalties regime. The first full benchmark will be published in May 2014 to cover the 2013/14 financial year and then annually every May.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said: "All fundraisers should be working according to our Code of Fundraising Practice to ensure continued high standards and a low level of public complaints. Of course, we don’t want to see any breaches of compliance for street fundraising, or any form of fundraising, so we hope that through increased awareness of our code and relevant rules from the PFRA, the number of breaches reduces in all future years."

The IoF’s code now includes the conduct rules from the PFRA rule book.

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