Stephen Bubb criticises charities over Newsnight report

Acevo chief executive says leaders failed to defend face to face fundraising

Stephen Bubb
Stephen Bubb

Chief executives body Acevo has censured charity leaders for failing to defend the sector after a critical television report about face-to-face fundraising practices.

In a letter to the top 50 fundraising charities, Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said he was concerned over their failure to defend the sector’s practices on BBC2’s Newsnight last week, which featured a report on the fees that UK charities pay to fundraising companies for recruiting new donors.

The programme implied that face-to-face fundraising was wasteful because donations were wiped out by the fees paid to the companies.

Only two of the 20 charities questioned - the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK - were willing to say how much they paid to sign up each donor.

Bubb said the failure to put forward representatives reveals "a worrying lack of accountability and transparency on the part of charities".

He added that given the high profile of the feature and its influence on public opinion, there should have been greater involvement of chief executives in defending the sector on the programme and protecting its reputation.

In the letter, Bubb said the charities’ reluctance to "defend what are entirely defensible practices poses a very real reputational risk to the whole sector" and could reinforce the kind of myths presented in the programme’s feature.

"Granted, it is widely acknowledged that we experience high levels of public trust, but this trust is based on goodwill and is therefore fragile," he said. "We need to get better at explaining what we do in order to build the requisite confidence needed to strengthen this fragile trust, and we must do it in a clear, transparent and accountable way."

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