The most common misdemeanours by street fundraisers in the past year were positioning themselves in the wrong place, not wearing ‘team leader’ badges and not explaining themselves to donors in clear and simple terms, according to data from the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.
The latest compliance and enforcement data shows how street fundraisers have fared since the PFRA struck an agreement with its members in September 2012 to implement a penalty points system for charities and agencies that break the PFRA’s rules.
The PFRA found that nearly half of all conduct that incurred penalties centred on the poor positioning of fundraisers, the lack of visibility of team leaders on site, and poorly explained solicitation statements, whereby fundraisers must declare if they are working for an agency and the fact that they are earning a wage.
The new penalties regime penalises charities and agencies by 20, 50 or 100 points depending on the severity of the rule breach. Organisations that reach a threshold of 1,000 points in a year are fined £1,000, after which any further breaches incur a £1 fine for every additional penalty point incurred.
The 13 charities and 12 agencies monitored by the PFRA received an average of 62 compliance visits between April 2013 and March 2014, compared with 47 visits during the previous six months. The value of the average penalty incurred during each visit fell by 11 per cent, from 44 to 39 points, over the same period. The proportion of compliance visits where penalties were issued remained steady, falling slightly from 42 per cent to 40 per cent.
A spokesman for the PFRA said the majority of the members monitored paid £1,000 or more in fines over the past year, but he declined to give precise figures.
He said that the large number of penalties incurred because of poor positioning of fundraisers was often because there were too many individuals working in the same area. "After a couple of hours, fundraisers can become a bit disorientated and are not thinking if they’re in exactly the right place," he said. "For the purposes of the site agreement, being one step or 100 metres outside the delineation doesn’t really matter."
But he said the main area of concern was the poor explanation of solicitation statements, and he urged PFRA members to improve in this area in order to maintain public trust in the charity sector. It is also important for team leaders to wear their badges more consistently, he said, because members of the public need to be able to easily identify the most senior member of a street fundraising team in the case of a complaint.
Sally de la Bedoyere, the chief executive of the PFRA, said it was a positive sign that the average penalty incurred per visit had fallen. "We’ve worked closely with our members to ensure their teams in the field know the rules and accompanying penalties," she said. "What these numbers show is that the message is getting through loud and clear."
The full data will be presented at the PFRA’s annual general meeting at London South Bank University on Wednesday.