PFRA working group to investigate fundraising problems in supermarkets

Asda says it will no longer allow fundraisers to solicit direct debit sign-ups in some of its stores; Nick Henry at the regulator says this trend is likely to continue

Nick Henry
Nick Henry

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association fears that supermarkets will stop allowing fundraisers to solicit direct debit sign-ups in their stores because store managers are concerned their jobs might be at risk if they allow them in.

Nick Henry, head of standards and allocations at the PFRA, told Third Sector that some Asda stores had informed the agency Clear Fundraising that it would no longer be able to fundraise on its premises.

"It’s got to the point where store managers almost feel like their jobs will be threatened if they allow visits to go ahead," Henry said. "They are not directly being threatened, but it’s a feeling they’re getting."

He said the trend for supermarkets to close their doors to charities was likely to continue because there would be increasing demand from charities and agencies to work with the stores that still allowed fundraising to take place, which would put them under additional pressure.

Henry said the National Autistic Society and Save the Children, which both work with Clear Fundraising, were concerned about Asda’s decision. Save the Children was confused, he said, because it was still permitted to fundraise in some Asda stores but not in others.

The PFRA plans to convene a working party to investigate why Asda has taken this decision and to try to get the supermarket to change its mind. Henry said this would be easier if the decision was taken because of the volume of requests from charities, but more of a challenge if there was evidence of unacceptable behaviour from fundraisers, such as swearing.

PFRA members can nominate themselves to be part of the working group, with charities from a range of cause areas and geographies being sought. Henry said that the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust were likely to participate – the former runs its own in-house private sites team and the Wildlife Trust depends on the sites for a large share of its income.

A spokeswoman for Asda said the chain did not allow agencies to collect on behalf of charities or sign people up for direct debits in its stores because it had received feedback from customers concerned that they were "aggressive and pushy". She said that Asda worked with hundreds of local and national charities that carried out cash collections in its stores on a regular basis.

Josh Pinder, managing director of Clear Fundraising, said: "Many stores and supermarkets are welcoming to fundraisers. But we understand that some supermarkets decide they don't want charities or any external organisations operating in their stores other than their own promotions during certain times. We respect that: it's their place of work and the charities we represent are their guests. Demand is really high at times, which is why they feel they have to sometimes say no. However, we feel the benefits for both store and charity are reciprocal – they show the stores' support for charities and give the charities access to interested customers."

Asked to comment, a spokesman for the National Autistic Society said: "We work very closely with our agency to find the best private sites for fundraising. Feedback from the public regarding our fundraising in these venues has always been extremely positive: they like to see us there and welcome the chance to engage with us." 

A spokeswoman for Save the Children said: "Save the Children runs face-to-face fundraising in private sites through Clear Fundraising. This activity continues to take place in supermarkets and is a very effective method of fundraising for the charity."

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