Fundraising charities and agencies paid £36,000 in fines to the PFRA last year

According to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association's latest figures, this was just over half the amount paid in financial penalties in 2013/14

Face-to-face: latest figures on fines
Face-to-face: latest figures on fines

Street fundraising charities and agencies paid £36,000 in fines to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association in the year to the end of March, about half the amount they paid in 2013/14, according to data from the membership body.

The self-regulatory body’s latest compliance and enforcement data shows that 16 of its 162 charity and agency members paid the fines – which do not have legal force but are levied on members that are found, through mystery shopping checks, to have breached the PFRA Rule Book or the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice.

The PFRA carried out the checks on the small proportion of its members – 15 charities and 12 agencies – that are actively engaged in street fundraising. They received an average of 30 mystery shopping visits – in which a contracted agent pretends to be a member of the public signing up for a donation – between April 2014 and March 2015, which is an increase of 24 per cent of the number of mystery shops the previous year.

In 2013/14, PFRA members also received 62 visits from a compliance officer who assessed their adherence to the code and rule book, but last year the PFRA replaced compliance checks with mystery shops because of the superior quality of the information gained through the latter method, according to a spokesman for the PFRA.

The body's compliance officers, in partnership with the IoF, give training to fundraisers who break face-to-face fundraising rules.

Members of the PFRA pay fines based on the number of penalty points they incur, which are given out in batches of 20, 50 or 100 points depending on the severity of the rule breach. Organisations that reach a threshold of 1,000 points in a year are fined £1,000, after which any further breaches incur a £1 fine for every additional penalty point incurred.

The value of the average penalty incurred rose by 10 per cent last year, from 39 to 43 points.

The proportion of mystery shops through which penalties were issued fell from 58 per cent to 48 per cent in 2014/15.

The PFRA found that more than half of all the conduct that incurred penalties centred on the poor positioning of fundraisers, poorly explained solicitation statements and walking alongside or in pursuit of members of the public for more than three steps.

A spokesman for the PFRA declined to reveal the names of the charities and agencies that had to pay fines.

"The penalty points regime was agreed to on condition that it would be anonymous, that the financial details would be confidential and that the money raised through fines would be re-invested in training initiatives to drive up standards," he said.

"This income has enabled us to make a significant investment in a new e-learning compliance training initiative, and these learning modules will be launched in early autumn."

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