Marie Curie Cancer Care has called for instances of street fundraising agencies not complying with fundraising rules to be made public.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper yesterday highlighted alleged breaches of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice by the agency Tag Campaigns during a text donations pilot campaign it ran for Marie Curie between November and May.
Video footage taken by the newspaper showed various examples of poor practice, including one fundraiser who allegedly said they deliberately tried to confuse potential donors and trainers telling new staff not to take no for an answer. It has prompted the Fundraising Standards Board to launch an investigation.
Spot checks by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association had already highlighted issues with Tag fundraisers during a trial of its new penalties and sanctions regime, which will be introduced later this year.
But Fabian French, director of fundraising at Marie Curie, said the newspaper investigation was the first it had heard of any issues with the agency.
"Until the Telegraph allegations came to light, we were unaware of any non-compliance issues with Tag and subsequent action taken by the PFRA," said French.
"As a PFRA member, we will be taking this up with them as part of our investigation."
"If there is an issue with non-compliance that should be in the public domain," a Marie Curie spokeswoman said. "I understand the PFRA is considering how best to go about that and we would welcome that as a charity."
Ian MacQuillin, head of communications at the PFRA, said the association did not inform the FRSB or its members about concerns over Tag because it was not under a formal investigation.
The PFRA had arranged to meet Tag to discuss professional standards issues with its fundraisers, he said.
MacQuillin said that the PFRA would provide members with details of fines and penalty points accumulated by charities and agencies as part of the new fining regime that will be introduced from 20 August. The exact details of how this will work have not yet been agreed, he said.
Tag issued a statement that said it would cooperate fully with the FRSB’s investigation. The agency said it was carrying out its own investigation and said it would dismiss anyone found guilty of gross misconduct.
The Fundraising Standards Board said it would launch an investigation into Tag Campaigns for allegedly breaking best practice standards.
It was shown video footage by The Sunday Telegraph of a Tag training session and street fundraising at various sites. This included one fundraiser revealing her technique to get people to stop and talk was to "confuse" them by saying they had dropped something. This breaches the IoF’s code, which states fundraisers should "never deliberately confuse, mislead or obstruct the public".
A team leader was also seen following people down the street after they had clearly indicated they were not interested.
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said the footage was "deeply worrying". "Professional fundraisers are legally required to make a clear statement disclosing the cost of the campaign and must not deliberately confuse a member of the public," he said.
"Fundraising agencies must maintain the highest standards at all times, protecting and building the brands and reputations of the charity clients they work with. Any breach of these standards can have a weighty impact on trust and confidence in the charity, fundraising technique and, ultimately, donation levels."
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, said: "If the reports are true they show completely unacceptable behaviour outside the institute’s Code of Fundraising Practice, and which the IoF would wholeheartedly condemn."
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said Tag was not the charity’s main agency.
She said the charity would carry out a full review of Tag and its training practices before the charity considered using it again.