Number of fundraising complaints rose by nearly half in the year to 2013

In its Complaints Report 2014, the Fundraising Standards Board recorded 48,432 complaints, with the number relating to clothing collections almost tripling to 5,699

Clothing collection
Clothing collection

The number of complaints to charities about their fundraising activities increased by 44 per cent between 2012 and 2013, figures from the Fundraising Standards Board show.

The FRSB’s Complaints Report 2014 shows that the total number of complaints reported by member charities to the regulator rose from 33,744 in 2012 to 48,432 last year.

But the total number of fundraising contacts reported by FRSB members increased by 51 per cent over the same period, from 13.2 billion to 20 billion.

The figures, which are based on returns from 1,203 FRSB members, show that complaints about addressed direct mail fundraising were the most common, rising by more than a third from 12,474 in 2012 to 16,966 last year, while the volume of activity in this area rose by 21 per cent.

The number of complaints relating to clothing collections almost tripled in 2013 to 5,699 from 1,910, despite a 45 per cent reduction in clothing collection volumes.

The report says one unnamed charity is responsible for 72 per cent of all complaints in this area, with the main concern being about filled bags not being collected. Complaints about the legitimacy of the collection were also expressed.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, told Third Sector: "Clothing collections are an issue that is being worked on by a lot of charities. They use a lot of commercial collectors and need to keep on top of their agencies to make sure they do the collections as planned."

Complaints about doorstep face-to-face fundraising increased by 27 per cent to 7,041, despite little change in the number of contacts compared with the previous year. The data echoes that from last year, with the main cause for complaint attributed to the behaviour of doorstep fundraisers. More than a fifth were fuelled by a dislike of doorstep fundraising as a practice.

Telephone fundraising attracted the second highest number of complaints, increasing from 6,379 last year to 8,019 – a 26 per cent rise – although volume increased by a similar amount. Just three charities were responsible for a third of all telephone complaints generated. The tone or content of the call itself was the most common cause for complaint, closely followed by a dislike of the fundraising method.

The report says that the number of complaints about face-to-face street fundraising fell by 10 per cent in 2013.

Most of the complaints were logged by large charities – those with annual voluntary incomes of £10m or more reported an average of 515 complaints each; the smallest organisations filed fewer than one apiece.

More than half – 55 per cent – of complaints were recorded by less than 2 per cent of charities that reported to the FRSB. Almost six in 10 charities, mainly small and community-based organisations, reported no complaints about their fundraising.

The number of charities reporting to the FRSB increased by 13 per cent between 2012 and 2013. Almost 6,000 complaints came from charities that were reporting to the regulator for the first time last year and, of these, 80 per cent were prompted by direct mail.

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said the report was a sign of increased accountability to the public. "The volume of complaints remains low relative to donor interactions, but understanding the complaints data can help both individual charities and the sector as a whole identify where there may be room for further improvements," he said.

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