We do not believe charities are dodging direct mail rules, says Fundraising Regulator

Saturday's Daily Telegraph implied that this was the regulator's view in a front-page article

Saturday's Telegraph front page
Saturday's Telegraph front page

The Fundraising Regulator has said it does not believe charities are "dodging the rules" for direct mail fundraising after an article in The Daily Telegraph newspaper over the weekend appeared to suggest that it did.

The article, which featured quotes from an interview with the regulator’s chair Lord Grade, appeared on the front page on Saturday’s newspaper under the headline "Charities dodge begging ban", with an interview with Grade inside.

The article said charities were "circumventing a ban on begging letters to elderly people" by sending them generic letters addressed to "Dear homeowner" rather than personalised letters, thereby avoiding strictures of the Fundraising Preference Service.

The FPS allows people to block communications from specific charities, but the block is related to named individuals rather than addresses.

The article quoted Stephen Dunmore, the regulator’s chief executive, as saying that if a letter was addressed to an individual the FPS would stop it, but "if it is just mail that comes through then there is no one stopping it because the post office has to deliver it".

The article also mentioned the complaints statistics published in October, which revealed that 83 per cent of the 16,131 complaints about direct mail were related to enclosed free gifts such as pens, coasters and keyrings.

The newspaper claimed the regulator would be instigating a "crackdown" under which charities would be asked to review why they sent out such enclosures, but did not feature any comment from Grade proposing such an initiative or expanding on what it would look like, although he said the regulator was learning from the complaints.

In a statement released today, a spokeswoman for the Fundraising Regulator said: "The Fundraising Regulator does not seek to ban 'enclosures' in addressed mail, although we recognise that they are an issue for some people and we are speaking to charities about the concerns revealed in our complaints report; nor do we believe that charities are dodging rules in this respect."

She said people could opt-out of receiving completely unaddressed post through a dedicated Royal Mail service – although this would still allow "dear homeowner" letters – and could use the FPS to block addressed mail from named charities.

She added: "We are grateful to charities for their speedy adoption of the Fundraising Preference Service, which enables individuals to suppress texts, addressed mail, phone call and emails."

The Institute of Fundraising also released a statement in response to the article.

"This is a misleading headline and does not reflect the high standards in the way charities raise vital funds," a spokesman said in a statement.

"Across the charity sector there is a very low proportion of complaints compared with contact with the public, as the Fundraising Regulator highlighted when it produced its annual complaints report earlier in the year."

The Daily Telegraph interview also contained criticisms of the online fundraising platform JustGiving.

Grade was quoted as saying there was a "lack of transparency" among fundraising platforms, which "don’t all disclose their fees", but does not specifically name JustGiving.

A spokesman for JustGiving told the Telegraph: "JustGiving has always been clear and transparent with all fees on donations through our site throughout our 16 years of operation. We are always open to discuss how we do this with the fundraising regulator."

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