The Fundraising Standards Board has called on the Institute of Fundraising to revise its Code of Fundraising Practice to limit the number of charity approaches each year and make it compulsory for fundraisers to adhere to all of its rules.
In an interim report, published on Tuesday afternoon as part of its investigation into allegations that the 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke was overwhelmed by fundraising requests before she died, the FRSB says that the wording of the code, which says that charities "ought" to do certain things, could undermine the importance of complying with those clauses by suggesting that they are optional.
"The board believes that compliance with the IoF code could be further strengthened by making all clauses in the code ‘must’ requirements," the report says. "Taking this important step would strengthen the message that fundraising organisations across the UK must comply with the code in its entirety."
The report, which will be presented to the IoF’s standards committee at a meeting on Wednesday, calls for donors to be given more control over how they are contacted by charities.
It recommends that the IoF amend its code to specify the maximum amount of times that a charity can contact an individual each year. It says that 42 per cent of the 384 complaints the FRSB has received since Olive Cooke’s death relate to the frequency of fundraising asks.
"Complainants state that they feel bombarded and overwhelmed by the number of appeals they have been receiving, including those from charities they have no current or previous relationship with," it says.
It also recommends: that clause 1.3(b) of the code, which says that "fundraisers ought not to pressurise donors or potential donors but may use reasonable persuasion", should be changed to remove the reference to reasonable persuasion; that the code should clarify that charities should not call people that are registered on the Telephone Preference Service unless the person has given clear permission to receive calls; and that greater clarity should be provided about the rules for gaining donor consent, with charities being required to provide clear and easy ways for donors to opt out of further communication.
It says that the existing guidance for fundraising from older supporters and those in vulnerable circumstances, amended last December, should be expanded; and it should be made clear that individuals’ data may only be passed on to third parties when they have given permission for this to happen. More than a third of the complaints related to fundraising approaches made to older or vulnerable people.
One in three complaints addressed fundraising by specific charities and would be dealt with through the FRSB’s usual three-stage complaints process.
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said in a statement: "The public wants greater clarity and more control over how their contact details are being used and the amount of times they will be asked to give. Although the code already makes it clear that charities must respect donors’ preferences in terms of the way they are contacted, how their details are used and the amount of times they can be approached, we want to see charities making those options much more evident."
McLean said that the FRSB was looking to the IoF standards committee to review how donors’ concerns could be addressed. "Essentially, we want the public to be given more control over the way they are approached by charities and for further safeguards to be put in place when it comes to fundraising requests of the elderly and vulnerable," he said.