Telephone fundraising agency Pell & Bales reports 80 per cent fall in profits

The company, which was the subject of a critical television documentary last year, blames changing market conditions

Telephone fundraising
Telephone fundraising

The profits of the telephone fundraising agency Pell & Bales fell by almost 80 per cent in 2014, and its turnover fell by more than 30 per cent, its latest accounts show.

The agency, which in August 2014 was the focus of a critical Channel 4 Dispatches programme on telephone fundraising, saw its overall profit fall from £1.2m in 2013 to £267,000, according to its accounts for the year ending December 2014, which were filed with Companies House this month.

The accounts show the agency’s revenues also fell to £7m from slightly more than £10m in the previous financial year, while its operating profits declined to £369,000 from £988,000.

The accounts say the decline in profit was due to "lower revenue as a consequence of changing market conditions".

They say the agency’s biggest risk for the future is a potential "loss of business from significant clients, regulatory compliance and effective management of finances".

Despite the decline in income, and reduced expenditure on staff costs – £4.3m in 2014, compared with £5.2m the year before – the agency’s directors received total payments of £115,696, which was £43,000 more than equivalent payments in 2013.

The accounts say that the agency’s staff numbers fell to 314 from 455 in 2013, but Pell & Bales said in a statement that it had not cut jobs and that its headcount had instead grown.

"Following Pell & Bales joining the Parseq group, a large number of employees are now accounted for elsewhere within the group; under no circumstances were mass redundancies made," it said.

Parseq, a business process outsourcing firm, acquired Pell & Bales in 2013.

The Pell & Bales statement added: "With parent company support and investment, today we are in the strongest financial position in the fundraising market and we continue to invest in our staff to deliver for our charity partners."

The extent to which the recent controversy around fundraising methods – particularly telephone fundraising – has affected the agency’s business is not known and Pell & Bales declined to comment.

But several telephone agencies are understood to be refocusing their businesses and reducing the capacity they can offer to charities. Some have closed down – for example, GoGen, which was at the centre of a front-page report by the Daily Mail under the headline "Shamed: Charity cold call sharks", and R Fundraising, which cited problems with charities that cancelled campaigns and reviewed their strategies in the difficult fundraising climate.

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