The Institute of Fundraising has today published new guidance for charities on how to work with fundraising agencies.
The free guide, Successful Partnerships for Sustainable Fundraising: a practical guide for charities working with agencies, comes after several well-known charities were criticised in the national press over the past year because of alleged malpractice by their agencies.
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, told Third Sector that the guidance was developed in-house over a period of several months.
Unlike the IoF’s guidance around vulnerable adults, which was published in 2014 in response to a request from the Fundraising Standards Board, he said the new guidance was produced proactively in response to charities and agencies being in spotlight.
"We wanted to give charities a practical guide to help them decide if it’s right for them to be working with an agency, the questions to ask, and ideas on how to manage the relationship appropriately," he said.
For working with telephone agencies, the guide recommends that charities listen in on calls that are selected randomly from a mix of outcomes – such as agreeing or declining to donate – and that they do this with a consistent frequency, for example every week during live campaigns, so they can identify and address issues as they occur.
"It is also recommended that you look at call recording lists and look for any patterns of behaviour," it says. "For example a large number of very short calls might indicate that supporters are not interested in taking the call from you."
This could indicate that supporters have received too much contact from the charity recently, it says.
Another tip it gives for monitoring telephone agencies is for charities to place their team members as "seeds" in agencies’ call lists, using false names.
For working with face to face agencies, it says that although the Public Fundraising Association has a mystery shopping programme for street fundraising, charities might also want to do some in-house monitoring to complement this, as well as appointing a third party mystery shopper.
Aside from these recommendations, much of the guide is a series of questions for charities to consider and it stresses there is no right answer to many of them.
"Each charity and agency has to work through these areas, ask the right questions and put in place the agreements and plans that will result in the fundraising partnerships that they want to see established," it says.
It features case studies from the terminal illness charity Marie Curie and the international poverty charity ActionAid, which says it dedicated significant time to reviewing its work with agencies over the past year.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said the guidance would help charities to understand their responsibilities in contracting with, and monitoring, third parties.
"It is imperative that every aspect of the fundraising relationship is carefully considered by both charities and agencies, to ensure the public can have confidence in fundraising practice and to protect charities from reputational and financial risk," he said.
Last month’s The Sun expose into the now defunct face to face agency Neet Feet was the latest in a string of critical stories about charities and their agencies over the past year. The agency, which was alleged to have targeted elderly people with aggressive techniques, went into liquidation in late July.
Other agencies that have been accused of malpractice over the past year include the telephone agencies Listen and GoGen, the second of which went into administration, and the face-to-face agency Wesser International.