The year began with revelations that the Information Commissioner’s Office had launched an investigation into the children’s charity EveryChild after a folder containing donors’ bank details, which belonged to one of its face-to-face fundraisers, was picked up on a street in Norwich city centre. It was later revealed that the fundraiser involved had been dismissed. He told Third Sector in an interview he believed he had been used as a scapegoat for the charity’s lack of data protection training.
The subject of bogus charitable clothing collections has dogged the sector all year, and MPs called for a summit on the issue in January. One man was arrested in connection with a scam that used the Down’s Syndrome Association brand in August, and, in October, Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, promised to hold a round-table discussion on how such collectors could best be tackled. Less than two weeks later, Third Sector saw an unpublished Oxfam report that claimed bogus collectors were being used as a smokescreen for the more serious problem of competition between charities and market saturation.
The Fundraising Standards Board completed investigations into two complaints against charities. In September, it dismissed a complaint against Cancer Research UK in which a member of the public had complained that men were not allowed to participate in Race for Life events. In November, the board upheld a complaint against Painted Children for what it said were illegal street collections.
The fundraising agency CSDM was also in the news after it went into administration during the summer. Chris Stoddard, the company’s founder, immediately set up two new fundraising companies that purchased CSDM’s assets. Things then took an unexpected turn when he told Third Sector that his agencies would be joining the FRSB, although this has not yet happened. It was later found that CSDM owed almost £1.4m to creditors when it went into administration, according to documents at Companies House. Administrators asked Stoddard not to use lists of donors that he had bought from CSDM for one of his other companies until an investigation into the true value of the list had been completed. Stoddard decided not to comply with the request.
Charities are still waiting for news on a firm alternative to the cheque because of the planned abolition of the payment method. In February, the Payments Council assured the sector that cheques would not be abolished until 2018, after the Institute of Fundraising expressed concerns they would be phased out before then. The Payments Council was told by MPs on the Treasury Select Committee to draw up a new cost-benefit analysis of the impact that phasing out cheques would have on charities, hard-to-reach communities and small businesses. More recently, the Payments Council published a list of 10 commitments regarding cheque abolition, followed by criticism from the sector that the process was not moving ahead quickly enough if a decision was to be made by 2016 as planned.