Regulator says it cannot remove charities from register for aggressive fundraising

The Charity Commission responds to Lord Hodgson, who said that removal from the register was a more effective sanction than fines

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has said that it would be unable to remove charities from its register for aggressive fundraising practices, in response to comments made by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts.

The Conservative peer, who carried out the review of the Charities Act 2006, said on the radio station BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday that there was a case for "considering charitable status" for charities that used aggressive or inappropriate fundraising methods.

The show was looking at fundraising methods after a survey by the consultancy nfpSynergy showed that more than half of people were "very annoyed" about telephone and doorstep fundraising.

Asked what sanctions should be applied to charities that employed aggressive or inappropriate fundraising methods, Hodgson said the first and best weapon was publicity because charities did not want to be seen to be behaving badly.

"If you fine them, all you’re doing is taking money that people have given to a good cause, so fining is probably not appropriate," said Hodgson. "I do think there is a case, with persistent bad behaviour, for considering charitable status and whether it is appropriate that a charity should continue to operate under the provisions of charity law."

But a spokeswoman for the commission told Third Sector it had no such power to intervene when charities employed aggressive fundraising techniques.

"Removing charities is not a remedy we can use in these situations – that power is available only where an organisation winds up or is found retrospectively not to have ever been a charity," she said. "Having said that, aggressive fundraising can be very damaging to the reputation of individual charities and to the charitable sector as a whole."

The commission urged people to report their concerns about aggressive fundraising to the charity in question, in the first instance, and then to the Fundraising Standards Board if they were not satisfied with the response. Adrian Goldberg, the programme's presenter, said the topic had generated a higher number of texts and emails from listeners than for any other subject in the show's history.

Speaking after the programme, Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said Hodgson’s proposal of loss of charitable status went way beyond the remit of self-regulation and that negative publicity by disclosure was a tool that could have a big impact on a charity’s ability to fundraise.

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