More than 100 charities still ignoring levy payment requests, says Fundraising Regulator's chair

At its second annual review event today, the regulator's chair Lord Grade says 26 eligible charities are refusing to pay and 105 have simply not replied

Lord Grade
Lord Grade

More than 100 charities have still not responded to requests to pay the voluntary levy to fund the Fundraising Regulator, its chair has said.

Speaking at the regulator’s second annual review event in central London this morning, Lord Grade said that, although more than 1,650 charities had agreed to pay the levy in its second year, 26 eligible charities were still refusing to pay and 105 had simply not responded to requests for payment.

Charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fundraising have been asked to pay the voluntary levy, which covers the costs of the regulator.

Grade warned that those that did not pay up would shortly be referred to the Charity Commission.

The sums that had not been paid amounted to 7 per cent of the watchdog’s projected income, said Grade.

But this is a significant improvement on the position reported by the regulator in February, when more than 500 organisations had not paid and 368 had not responded to requests for payment.

Grade acknowledged today that the levy was voluntary, but said charities that did not pay should "think carefully about what this says about the charity sector".

He said collecting the levy had remained challenging, but many more charities had responded quickly and willingly to requests for payment for the second year of the levy, which began in September, than had in the first year.

"Despite this, a small number still refuse to pay while others just did not respond to phone calls letters and emails," he said.

"We highlighted those failing to respond to our first levy on our public register and referred them to the Charity Commission. We will shortly do the same for the 26 refusing to pay the second levy and the 105 not replying at all. We hope those numbers will come down shortly.

"Together they represent 7 per cent of our anticipated income."

The chief executive of the regulator, Gerald Oppenheim, said the effort put into chasing charities for their levy payments had had an impact on the regulator’s spending.

During a question-and-answer session at the event, the panel of regulator representatives was asked by an audience member why the organisation’s finance costs accounted for 13 per cent of its total spending in the past year.

Oppenheim said: "We’ve had to put a heck of a lot of effort into levy collection, particularly in year one.

"You wouldn’t believe how much we had to bring people in to check the data, the contact lists and who we were speaking to. Then, with those who were not paying promptly, we had to chase, chase, chase and chase again."

Last year’s annual review on 6 July marked the launch of the Fundraising Preference Service, which allows people to block communications from certain charities across different communication channels.

In the first year of the service, the regulator had received 19,583 requests to stop contact, 5,318 of which were submitted on behalf of someone else. In total, 6,619 people used the service in its first 12 months, Oppenheim revealed.

The FPS’s running costs were £360,000 for its first year, meaning it cost £54.39 per user.

The regulator said that in September it would be publishing the annual breakdown of the complaints it receives from charities.

Oppenheim said that although last year’s annual complaints return had been a very detailed document, mirroring the reports produced by the regulator’s predecessor, the FRSB, the regulator had come to the conclusion that this was an overly complex exercise.

"We have decided for this year and the future that we would concentrate on the 60 largest fundraising organisations because they generate about 55 per cent of the complaints," he said. "And if you look at those complaints you get a pretty good idea of what’s going on."

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