Over-reliance on fundraising agencies to blame for malpractice, charity chief executives tell MPs

Mark Goldring of Oxfam, Peter Wanless of the NSPCC, Justin Forsyth of Save the Children and David Canavan of the RSPCA were appearing before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today

Goldring, Forsyth, Canavan and Wanless at the session
Goldring, Forsyth, Canavan and Wanless at the session

The over-reliance of charities on fundraising agencies was to blame for the alleged malpractice among fundraisers uncovered by recent Daily Mail investigations, charity chief executives told MPs today.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam, Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, and David Canavan, acting chief executive of the RSPCA, appeared before MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this morning to answer questions about fundraising practices.

Asked by the committee chairman Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for Harwich and North Essex, how poor fundraising practice had been allowed, Goldring said it was because charities had relied too heavily on agencies that had received too little supervision. Wanless said charities had failed to translate their values into their management of agency contracts.

Jenkin said the allegations he had read about fundraising practices in the Mail sounded more like a "boilerhouse operation" than something that reflected charitable values.

Cheryl Gillan, the Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, said the sector had undergone "a catalogue of disasters where in the most extreme instances people have been driven to take their own lives".

Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, asked if the chief executives had considered resigning from their positions over the allegations. None said they had.

Asked if the charities continued to work with Listen, the telephone fundraising agency that was the focus of a Mail On Sunday investigation in June, the chief executives said that Oxfam did not but the RSPCA and NSPCC still did so.

Forsyth said Save the Children had suspended its relationships with all telephone agencies in the wake of the allegations and was setting up new contracts with higher standards.

Wanless said the NSPCC had ended its street fundraising operation because it had been unable to make the fundraising method fit with the charity’s values. Goldring said his charity’s direct mail now asked donors whether they wanted to opt in to receiving mail specifically from Oxfam, rather than from any organisation.

Forsyth said he did not feel under siege from the government and the right-wing media and he had welcomed the Mail's coverage because it had brought to light practices that could now be changed.

He reiterated the call made by 17 charity chief executives, including himself, in a letter to last weekend's Sunday Times, for an independent regulator of fundraising to be established. He said this new body should not fine charities for breaking rules but should instead ban them from using certain fundraising methods.

He said charities had been as shocked as the politicians to learn about the alleged malpractice that had been taking place.

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