The announcement in July that mobile phone operators would stop charging VAT on donations to charity by text message was a high point of the year. The move, which meant the value of text donations increased by 15 per cent, was welcomed by fundraisers. But they are still lobbying for operators to charge a lower tariff for donations and increase the proportion of each text donation that reaches charities.
The launch of Virgin's charity fundraising site was another chance for the sector to cash in. Virgin Money Giving announced in April that the transaction charges for charities on its site would undercut those of rival companies by up to 70 per cent. In October, rival site Bmycharity announced it was removing its commission charges.
The Institute of Fundraising's campaign to clean up direct mail also hit the headlines. In October, it wrote to 16 charities about 22 cases in which it believed charities had broken its rules on direct mail, asking them to follow its best practice guidelines. In November, it announced that five had defied its message, claiming either that their direct mail packs did not breach the code or acknowledging that they did, but refusing to change them. The institute will refer them to the Fundraising Standards Board, which polices the code but has no power over non-members.
Also in October, Karl Holweger, chief executive of telephone fundraising agency Pell & Bales, advocated making ‘administrative' calls to lapsed supporters who had asked not to be contacted, asking whether they still did not want to be called. The story sparked controversy and, after the Information Commissioner's Office issued a statement saying it would be "concerned" about the practice, Pell & Bales agreed to stop it. In response to the furore, representatives from umbrella bodies and fundraising agencies held a summit at which they agreed to ask the ICO for clarification of the rules. The Institute of Fundraising agreed to consider changing its code of practice on telephone fundraising.
The year was rounded off when Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, resigned from the advisory panel of the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy because he felt its research was of insufficient use to fundraisers. The institute plans to instead set up a new think tank to examine fundraising behaviour and donor motivation.