Aggressive fundraising techniques are causing "public disquiet" that the charity sector is doing little to address, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering heard yesterday.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts told a meeting of the group in Westminster that the sector needed to "do a great deal of work" to win back public support and risked "a fall in public confidence" if it did not.
Hodgson, who last year completed his review of the Charities Act 2006, said people working in charities tended to dismiss public complaints or say they were a problem for someone else.
"When I started my review, I didn’t expect to find such antipathy to the way funds were raised," he said. "The people don’t feel the sector responds in a cohesive way to public disquiet.
"The sector needs to do a great deal of work to restore public confidence in this area. If they do not, the problems they have now will be accentuated by a fall in public confidence.
"The sector likes to pass the buck: ‘it’s not us, it’s the chuggers; it’s not us, it’s the door-to-door people’."
Lord Hodgson said that he was still receiving "three or four complaints a week" about charity fundraising practice, nine months after his review finished.
Hodgson said the public were also concerned about sector remuneration. He said he did not believe sector pay was excessive or that too much was spent on administration, but the sector needed to convey this to the public.
"There is an educational job to be done if the sector is to continue to enjoy the extraordinarily high levels of public trust it has historically had," he said.
Lily Caprani, director of communications and policy at the Children’s Society, told the meeting that her charity had stepped away from aggressive fundraising methods because they were less effective.
"We aren’t interested in just squeezing money out of anyone who happens by," she said. "We want to establish long-term relationships with interested supporters. Ethically, we feel that’s a lot better than just signing up lots of people at King’s Cross station."
She said she agreed that more needed to be done to educate the public about the realities of work in charities.
"We’ve taken the public for granted," she said. "As long as the money kept flowing, there were no questions asked."
Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, told the meeting there was a danger that the sector was focused on "forms of fundraising that work in the short term but might damage public trust in the long term" and more analysis needed to be done of the costs, as well as the benefits, of such techniques.