Five charities defy Institute of Fundraising over direct mail standards

Some deny breaching the rules

Five of the 16 charities that the Institute of Fundraising accused of breaching its code of conduct on direct mail have responded in a way that the institute says is "concerning".

Four of the charities said they would cooperate with the institute and attempt to meet its best practice guidelines. Three sent replies that the institute has not yet classified as either satisfactory or concerning, and four have not yet replied.

Most of the charities concerned are not formally bound by the direct mail code because they are not members of the institute. But the institute, backed by the Fundraising Standards Board, has pledged to do what it can to root out poor practice.

It wrote last month to 16 charities about 22 mail packs that it believes contravene the code. Institute members had complained that the packs failed to say clearly how donations were spent or used over-emotional language or guilt-inducing gifts, such as coins.

Third Sector has learned that some of the respondents have challenged the institute's interpretation of the code and claimed their direct mail does not contravene it. At least one charity has acknowledged it breaches the code, but has said it is not willing to change its practices.

The institute will hold a board meeting this week to discuss the responses. All the correspondence is expected to be referred to the Fundraising Standards Board, which judges complaints about its own members against the institute's codes of practice. The FRSB decided in July to start investigating complaints against non-members.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said: "Our only sanction is to withdraw membership. But I will personally meet with non-member charities to show them what we believe is wrong with their campaigns and encourage them to sign up to best practice."

The institute's code of fundraising practice on direct mail says outer envelopes should not contain shocking images and charities should not send people incentives that generate donations primarily because of embarrassment or financial guilt.

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