Almost 900 of the largest fundraising charities received more than 42,000 complaints about their fundraising activities last year, figures from the Fundraising Regulator show.
The regulator has today published a report on the number of complaints received in 2016 by 893 charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on fundraising.
The report says it is not possible to make direct comparisons with previous complaints data published by the Fundraising Standards Board, which put out its final annual complaints report last year, because the charities involved are not necessarily the same.
Last year’s FRSB report said complaints about fundraising had risen by 28 per cent in 2015 on the year before, despite a 33 per cent fall in fundraising activity by charities.
The FRSB’s report said 66,814 complaints were reported by 1,504 member organisations, which works out as 44.4 per member.
Today’s data from the Fundraising Regulator is equivalent to 47.9 complaints per member.
Direct mail accounted for the highest proportion of the complaints reported by charities in 2016, with 16,131 in a year when more than 300 million items of direct mail were sent, the report says.
Door-to-door fundraising was in second place on 6,921 complaints, with email fundraising third and clothing collections fourth, according to the report.
Figures published by the regulator show that 83 per cent of the complaints about addressed direct mail were related to accompanying enclosures sent by charities. The regulator says it wants to better understand why this was so.
The report says more than 4,000 complaints in 2016 were reported by four charities, which it does not name. The regulator says it will follow up with those organisations to understand the nature and context of those complaints.
The report says the regulator is also on track to receive more complaints itself this year than the FRSB did each year, with about 1,000 expected to be received in 2017/18, compared with 868 reported by the FRSB in 2015.
The report says the regulator received a "large number" of complaints that were outside its remit, which it referred to the relevant organisation where possible.
When put in the context of the volume of activity in each fundraising method, volunteer fundraising came out as the most complained-about method, followed by face-to-face fundraising on private sites.
The Fundraising Regulator said its report represented a new approach to how complaints data can be used and it would be putting forward proposals on what it might do differently in future years.
The regulator said it had noted a "clear willingness and commitment from organisations to work with us to continue to improve fundraising practices and ensure the best experience possible for donors".
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said the report demonstrated the nature of complaints made by the public about fundraising practices and the positive progress made by the sector in addressing those concerns.
"We are delighted to have received nearly 900 responses, demonstrating the collaborative nature of the sector as we work together to learn from complaints in order to improve public confidence in fundraising practices," he said.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said: "As the Fundraising Regulator points out, there is a low proportion of complaints compared with contact with the public, which highlights that the vast majority of fundraising is carried out to a high standard.
"However, there is always room for improvement, and these findings will help the fundraising community to do even more to improve the way charities ask people for support."