Call for better regulation of charity auction companies

Businesses and charities call for a 'more stringent process' and a register to monitor events

Beatles: memorabilia is sold at auction (picture by Terry O'Neill)
Beatles: memorabilia is sold at auction (picture by Terry O'Neill)

Companies that run and provide memorabilia for charity fundraising auctions have called for an official register to help regulate such events.

Businesses say increasing numbers of charities are asking them to provide lots or run auctions. But some charities and companies are concerned about how the events are being conducted and fear some are breaching sector guidelines.

David Smith, owner of charity auction service Auction Lots, said: "Two years ago I hardly ever used to get any calls – it was all about approaching people with the idea. Now I tend to get five or six enquiries a month from charities."

Smith said some companies had terrible reputations. He wanted companies to go through a "more stringent process" and the Institute of Fundraising to consider establishing a list of approved businesses.

In some auctions, the charity receives the difference between the sale price and a prearranged reserve. Smith said it was up to charities to tell supporters how much money was going to the cause, but some were not doing so.

Richard Evans, founder of Legende Celebrity Art, which runs an online scheme offering charities between 13 and 19 per cent of the sale price of its photographs in return for free advertising, agreed that a register would be sensible. Evans said his business was "completely up front" and online shoppers and auction bidders knew how much money went to charity.

Some charities are concerned about the rise in the number of companies offering auction services.

Cathy Gilman, chief executive of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said the practice was unethical and undermined genuine charity auctions, where all the money raised went to good causes. She said companies had "flooded the market place with often not very high quality stuff".

Jason Doherty, head of marketing and partnerships at the Charities Trust, said it had used Legende Celebrity Art. "If it's going to generate more money and there's no cost incurred to the charity, why not?" he said.

Louise Richards, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, said that under commercial participator regulations a charity should have a contract with a company and make a statement about how much money was going to the good cause.


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