Shelter reviews future of its fundraising agency The Street Academy

The charity's face-to-face agency has not worked with new clients since criticism by The Mail on Sunday in 2015

Shelter Cymru: currently the only client of The Street Academy
Shelter Cymru: currently the only client of The Street Academy

The housing charity Shelter is reviewing the future of its face-to-face fundraising agency and has not worked with any new clients since it was criticised by The Mail on Sunday newspaper in the summer.

An informed source told Third Sector that The Street Academy, launched by the charity in 2013 to provide fundraising services and training for other charities, had closed. But a spokesman for Shelter denied this, saying that the agency and its future strategy were under review.

The Mail on Sunday reported in July that The Street Academy was one of two agencies that had used high-pressure donor recruitment tactics during a campaign for Oxfam. This prompted Oxfam to terminate its contract with the agency. The Fundraising Standards Board launched an investigation that in December concluded the academy had breached the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice in several ways. 

A spokeswoman for Shelter confirmed that Street Academy fundraisers were currently fundraising on behalf of only one client: Shelter Cymru, the sister charity to Shelter. "After activity with Oxfam ended, all existing campaigns were delivered to their close as planned," she said.

The Street Academy website was taken offline last year and the agency’s Facebook page has not been updated since August.

A mobile number listed on the Facebook page was switched off when Third Sector tried to call and there is no longer any mention of The Street Academy on the main Shelter website.

Shelter’s spokesman said earlier that the agency was not proactively recruiting new clients and was therefore communicating with Shelter Cymru by means of a closed Facebook group, which is why the public group had not been updated for so long.

"We have been approached with requests for new business, but are currently reviewing the size and scope of The Street Academy with pro-bono work from a corporate partner and will not be doing any proactive marketing or recruitment of new clients until this is complete and we have determined our future ambitions for the organisation," he said.

The charity’s spokeswoman said the review would involve a modelling exercise to assess the academy’s operating model and the impact of a proposed expansion of the team. She said that the website had been taken down for updating.

Unicef, which in 2013 was one of the first charities to sign up to The Street Academy, and Cancer Research UK, which has also worked with the agency, both stopped working with it in 2014, spokeswomen for the charities confirmed.

When The Street Academy was first launched, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said the venture would provide a new income stream for the charity and enable it to share its successful street fundraising techniques with the sector.

A request from Third Sector for an interview with Robb or Tracy Griffin, the charity’s director of fundraising, about the academy’s current situation was declined.

According to the founder of The Street Acedemy, Nick Marsh, who left Shelter in 2014 to become head of individual giving at the Canal & River Trust, the academy secured donations from more than 100,000 people during its first year of operation.

The charity’s latest annual report, which covers the year to March 2015, says that its street fundraising operations were affected by sector-wide difficulties in recruiting staff, which also affected The Street Academy.

The Public Fundraising Association said recently that face-to-face fundraising was going through a challenging period and a number of agencies, many of whom were PFRA members, had been forced to close down. The face-to-face agencies Fundraising Initiatives Limited and Person to Person Direct were placed into administration late last year.

Negative media coverage from the Daily Mail also caused the telephone agency GoGen to cease trading last summer.

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