Large rise in fundraising complaints despite fall in activity

A report from the Fundraising Standards Board shows the bulk of additional complaints could be attributed to members who joined in 2015

Mail was most complained-about fundraising method
Mail was most complained-about fundraising method

Complaints about fundraising rose by 28 per cent last year despite a 33 per cent fall in fundraising activity by charities, according to the final complaints report from the Fundraising Standards Board.

The report, published today, shows that FRSB member charities received 66,814 complaints in 2015, up from 52,389 the previous year, while the volume of fundraising contacts fell from 20.1 billion in 2014 to 13.4 billion last year.

The FRSB said that almost 12,000 of the complaints were recorded by the 166 new charities that joined the FRSB last year, which boosted its membership by 12 per cent to 1,504 organisations.

A like-for-like comparison of a sub-set of 1,179 charities shows, however, that complaints reported by those organisations rose by 6 per cent year on year, while fundraising activity fell by 36 per cent.

Addressed mail and telephone fundraising combined accounted for 60 per cent of all fundraising complaints, the report says.

Complaints about addressed mail – the most complained-about medium – rose by 37 per cent per cent year on year to 27,089, with the FRSB saying that the frequency of mailings, a dislike of the method and poorly addressed communication were the main concerns cited by the public.

The report says that 212 million addressed mail items were issued by charities in 2015.

The second most complained-about method was telephone fundraising, with complaints increasing by 65 per cent to 13,322, the report says, despite many charities having either stopped or cut back the use of this method last year.

Two-thirds of complaints were driven by a dislike of fundraising calls, up from one-third in 2014.

Doorstep fundraising was the third most complained-about method, with 8,497 complaints, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year, with complaints largely prompted by the behaviour of fundraisers, the report says.

It says 500 of the UK’s biggest fundraising charities were responsible for the overwhelming majority (98 per cent) of both fundraising activities and complaints, with nine in 10 small charities recording no complaints about their fundraising.

Just 1 per cent of reporting charities generated 60 per cent of complaints, the report says, while more than a third (35 per cent) of complaints were prompted by a general dislike of fundraising methods.

The report says the FRSB noticed a marked rise in complaints during May, June and July last year, following the death of the volunteer fundraising Olive Cooke.

In a statement accompanying the report, Andrew Hind, chair of the FRSB, said: "Charity fundraising will only achieve its potential and public trust be fully restored if charities ensure that their future fundraising is undertaken in a way which always commands the respect and approval of their supporters and the general public."

The FRSB will hand over its responsibilities to the new Fundraising Regulator on Thursday and will close down shortly after.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said 2015 was a difficult year for fundraising but the sector had taken swift action to address public concerns.

It was important to note that existing donors were choosing to continue to support the causes they cared about, he said.

The top 10 most complained-about fundraising methods in 2015 were: addressed mail (27,089 complaints); telephone fundraising (13,322); doorstep face-to-face (8,497); clothing collections (5,342); email fundraising (2,441); outdoor events (1,634); private site face-to-face (1,359); lotteries (1,094); street face-to-face (1,033); raffles (855).

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