Police have received a number of phone calls from people in Kent complaining about being approached after dark by doorstep fundraisers working on behalf of the British Red Cross and the Royal British Legion.
A spokeswoman for Kent Police said the force received about five calls from people in Sevenoaks on 22 January, and more again at the weekend of 24 to 25 January. An officer sent to investigate the complaints on the first day of calls encountered a group of 10 people from the Royal British Legion who produced ID to confirm this, the spokeswoman said.
The timing of the bulk of the calls – before 8.15pm on 22 January – indicate that the fundraisers were not in breach of the Institute of Fundraising's Code of Fundraising Practice, which says that doorstep calls ought to be made between 9am and 9pm on weekdays and between 10am and 9pm on weekends, unless other times have been specified by an agreement or licence.
There are no IoF guidelines about fundraising after dark, but the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association’s doorstep Rule Book says that fundraisers should take extra care when calling after dark so as not to cause alarm or distress to householders.
It is not known what prompted the residents to call the police, but one man told the Sevenoaks Chronicle newspaper that his wife, who was at home alone with her three children, felt pressurised and frightened when a male fundraiser called and asked to know how much she had given to the legion’s poppy appeal. When she told him he had not called at the best time, he said he would call back later.
Gillian Shepherd-Coates, chief officer of Age UK Sevenoaks & Tonbridge, said that doorstep fundraisers should not be approaching people’s properties at night. "People should not be worried in their own homes," she said. "If they want to give to charity they should have the choice and make their own mind up in their own time. They should not be harassed on the doorstep."
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said the regulator had received no complaints about the incident.
"What is important is that the organisations involved listen to the concerns raised, address this feedback and consider it in their future campaign planning," he said. "The public must be reassured that charities have a high set of standards that they adhere to and that they are ready and willing to listen to the public’s views on the way they fundraise."
A spokeswoman for the Royal British Legion said: "The charity operates entirely within best-practice guidelines regarding door-to-door fundraising. All fundraising activities are carried out between noon and 8.30pm, well within the recommended times of noon to 9pm. Fundraisers are trained to work to a code of conduct that is expected of anyone representing the Royal British Legion."
A spokeswoman for the British Red Cross said: "Our fundraisers are out between 8.30 am and 9pm, which are the usual hours for this activity. Although we appreciate that this might seem late to some people, we find that calling in the evening helps people who would like to donate to our organisation, but are unavailable during the day because of work or other commitments."