The stories of the month: Fundraising

Concern Worldwide charged almost 25,000 direct debit supporters up to 100 times the amount they had pledged to the charity because of an administrative error. The international poverty charity was forced to apologise to the 24,700 people who were affected by the error, which meant regular givers who pledged £5 a month were instead charged as much as £500. It has also vowed to refund the supporters any bank charges or fees they incurred as a result of the unexpected withdrawal of funds. A Concern Worldwide spokeswoman said the charity had launched an external investigation led by the accountancy firm KPMG to find out what went wrong.

The art gallery administrator Tate has become the first charity to refuse to pay the start-up costs of the new Fundraising Regulator, with a further two reluctant to hand over any contributions. Parkinson's UK is understood to have reservations about paying the regulator the £15,000 it has requested from each of the UK's 50 largest fundraising charities to finance its set-up, and the sight-loss charity the RNIB is yet to agree to make the payment. Stephen Dunmore, the interim chief executive of the regulator, said its discussions with the RNIB and Parkinson's UK were continuing. "We've made excellent progress with the negotiations and are very grateful to the charities that are contributing," he said.

The telephone fundraising agencies Pell & Bales and Pure Associates are to be sold, its owner has confirmed. Tony Strong, chief executive of the business process outsourcing firm Parseq, which acquired Pell & Bales in 2013 and Pure the following year, told Third Sector they were being sold because their clients had indicated a preference for working with "boutique" telephone fundraising agencies rather than with corporations. He said the sale was likely to be completed by the end of June, but he would not say how much the companies would be sold for or disclose the name of the buyer.

paul farthing

Paul Farthing (above), director of fundraising at the NSPCC, has left the charity after three years. An NSPCC spokesman confirmed that Farthing, who joined the charity from Age UK in April 2013, left the role in April. Asked why Farthing had left, the spokesman said: "As we embark on our new five-year strategy, we are strategically realigning some of our marketing and fundraising activity. As such, our current fundraising director has decided to move on after three years with the NSPCC to pursue new opportunities." Nigel Spencer, the NSPCC's head of individual giving, will cover the fundraising director role on an interim basis.

The Disasters Emergency Committee and its member charities have written to the government to express concerns about the effect the proposed Fundraising Preference Service could have on emergency appeals. The DEC, which launches emergency appeals for major humanitarian disasters on behalf of 13 international development charities, confirmed that it sent a letter about its concerns to government ministers in November. Jane Pleace, director of fundraising at Tearfund, a DEC member, said the charities were worried that the new service, which is expected to be launched in less than a year, could stop people responding quickly to emergency appeals.

Spending by charities on television advertising rose by 20 per cent year on year to £123m in 2015, and their total advertising spend has increased by a third over the past five years, according to figures obtained by Third Sector. Data from the market research firm Nielsen showed that charities spent £123.3m on TV advertising in 2015, compared with £102.6m in the previous year. But separate data from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board shows that the number of people who viewed charity adverts grew by just 3 per cent year on year, from 24.9 million viewers in 2014 to 25.6 million last year.

Face-to-face fundraising figures have fallen to their lowest level since 2009/10, according to data released by the Public Fundraising Association. The PFRA data shows the total number of donors recruited by street and door-to-door fundraisers was about 711,000 in the year to March - down from 845,000 in the previous year. It is the lowest number reported by the PFRA since 2009/10, when fundraisers signed up about 625,000 donors. Peter Hills-Jones, chief executive of the PFRA, said reasons for the fall included a new police requirement that all door-to-door fundraisers in London undergo criminal record checks and increased hostility towards fundraisers because of the recent media scrutiny on charities' fundraising activities.

Oxfam has ended its door-to-door fundraising programme because of poor returns, according to Tim Hunter, its director of fundraising. The international development charity had a long-standing relationship with the door-to-door agency Home Fundraising until the end of last year, but decided to curtail its investment in the medium after concluding that it did not meet its performance requirements. The medium proved a "challenging area" for the charity in terms of performance in 2015, Hunter told Third Sector. "While we worked to try to improve it, we couldn't get the performance we thought was appropriate," he said.

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