Impartiality of PFRA donor survey questioned

At the regulator's AGM, an audience member says the compilation of the annual Donor Acquisition and Retention Survey involves a conflict of interest

Face-to-face: impartiality of survey questioned
Face-to-face: impartiality of survey questioned

The impartiality of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association’s annual Donor Acquisition and Retention Survey has been called into question by an audience member at the regulator’s annual general meeting.

The survey, referred to as Dars, is funded by the PFRA and produced by Rupert Tappin and Morag Fleming, who both work for the agencies Decaid Consulting and Future Fundraising.

It was introduced in 2008 to provide a consistent measure of donor attrition, Tappin said at the meeting in London yesterday, and to assist charities that use face-to-face fundraising with planning and developing their campaigns.

But after he presented some of the findings from this year’s report, one member of the audience, which was made up of PFRA members, raised concerns.

"An agency member of the PFRA is undertaking this work and assumptions are clearly being made," the audience member said. "If we have commentary that could potentially influence commercial decisions, there is a conflict of interest between the people carrying out the work and the industry using it to make decisions."

In response, Tappin said: "I appreciate the grounds for a conflict of interest, yes. I run an agency and that has always been there as an issue.

"We’re creating something with industry buy-in. I like to think it is fair and impartial. We are looking at different ways of running it in future. The information it provides is actually beneficial for us all."

Paul Stallard, chair of the PFRA, said the regulator was looking closely at ways to improve the survey. 

In 2013, 32 charities took part in the survey on campaigns run from 2007 to 2012. It is based on 1.4 million donors signed up to a total of 257 street, door and private site campaigns.

The so-called ‘no-show’ rate – the proportion of donors who failed to make the first payment after being recruited by doorstep fundraisers – rose to 23 per cent in 2012 from 21 per cent in 2011, this year’s survey shows.

But for donors recruited by street fundraisers, the proportion of no-shows fell from 27 per cent in 2011 to 26 last year. This came after a sharp increase in street no-shows between 2010 and 2011.

The proportion of donors who cancelled their direct debit within 11 months of signing up has increased steadily from 48 per cent in 2006 and is expected to be 62 per cent in 2011, based on currently available figures, the report says.

Private sites have lower initial attrition rates than the other types of face-to-face fundraising, the report says.

Jenna Pudelek

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