Telephone agency Listen goes from £1m profit to £200k loss in a year

The company, which was the subject of a newspaper investigation, says in its latest accounts that there has been a 'permanent reduction in the size of the telephone fundraising market'

The telephone fundraising agency Listen made a loss of more than £200,000 in the year to March 2016 amid what it describes as a "permanent" reduction in the size of the telephone fundraising market, according to its latest accounts.

Listen’s accounts for the year ending March 2016, filed with Companies House this month, show the agency went from a profit of £954,538 in the year to March 2015 to a deficit of £202,895 last year.

Listen, which became the biggest telephone fundraising agency in the market after GoGen closed down in June 2015, was the focus of a Mail on Sunday investigation in June of that year. The newspaper accused the agency of using high-pressure fundraising techniques, a claim that was later upheld by the Fundraising Standards Board.

The agency’s accounts show that turnover also fell from £10.9m to £8.2m year on year and staff numbers reduced from 332 to 286. Of the turnover generated, £193,000 came from geographical markets in the "rest of the world" and £6,700 came from Europe, not including the UK.

A statement in the accounts says: "2015/16 saw a reduction in turnover from the previous year as a result of unforeseen regulatory changes in the sector, taking turnover back to the levels of 2013/14.

"These regulatory changes have led to what is likely to be a permanent reduction in the size of the telephone fundraising market, but the directors feel that the business now has a sustainable cost base and is well positioned for the future."

The statement adds that the agency responded to the regulatory changes by restructuring the business with a view to reducing capacity and fixed costs. This process resulted in a "manageable loss" during the financial year, it says.

The accounts also show that one of the agency’s directors, David Robson, resigned from the board in September 2015. They show that one director was paid £83,000 as "compensation for loss of office".

Asked to comment on the figures, Tony Charalambides, founder and managing director of Listen, said in a statement: "2015 was a turbulent year for fundraisers, given the well-documented events affecting the whole sector that summer, but we have since engaged positively and proactively with the regulatory changes and have focused on quality and innovation with our clients.

"In addition, we took decisive and significant action at the time to restructure our business, and that has minimised the financial impact on Listen. As a result, we have maintained a robust overall financial position.

"Now we are excited to be leading the way with a number of innovations, not least in how telephone evolves from a purely fundraising tool to an engagement device that develops sustainable, long-term relationships between supporters and clients."

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