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Oxfam and FRSB to investigate Mail on Sunday’s claims of ‘high-pressure’ fundraising techniques

The Fundraising Standards Board, the independent self-regulatory body for charity fundraising in the UK, is to investigate the allegations of “high-pressure techniques” used in fundraising that were made in yesterday’s The Mail on Sunday.
In the newspaper’s online article headlined ”We don’t care if she’s 98… she’s not dead, so get her cash’: Mail on Sunday exposes tactics of cynical call centre used by Britain’s biggest charities including Oxfam, Cancer Research UK and the RSPCA”, the newspaper reports on what an undercover investigation claims to have discovered at Listen Ltd, the telephone fundraising agency.
The allegations made the front page of the printed newspaper yesterday.
Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board said:

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations that the Mail on Sunday has made. It is critical that fundraisers treat the public with respect, openness and honesty at all times.
“The FRSB will investigate these claims to establish whether any breach of fundraising standards has taken place.”

Oxfam responds to allegations

In a statement yesterday, Tim Hunter, Oxfam’s Director of Fundraising, pointed out that:


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

“the headline in the Mail on Sunday claiming that we target 98-year-olds is factually incorrect. It is against our policy to target vulnerable people”.

At the same time, because “our supporters’ generosity is the life-blood of our organisation” he thanked the newspaper for bringing the allegations to their attention.
He confirmed that the charity had suspended all operations with both Listen Ltd and Street Academy, a street fundraising company that works with Oxfam, “pending a thorough investigation”.
He added:

“Oxfam carries out regular quality checks of fundraising calls on our behalf and insists on high standards of training and monitoring”.

Listen’s response

Listen issued a statement saying that it was “now fully investigating the allegations made”. It pointed out that it is a member of the Institute of Fundraising and is regulated by the Fundraising Standards Board, and that it “prides itself on its reputation for operational integrity and raising significant sums of money for good causes in an ethical way”.
Since it was established in 2008, Listen has raised more than £150 million for charities. In addition, the company “also makes significant charitable donations itself.”
It won the Best Use of Telephone Award at the Institute of Fundraising National Awards in 2012.

Series of press criticisms of charities and fundraising

Yesterday’s report comes amid other press claims and reports of bad fundraising practice, including the case of the late Poppy seller Olive Cooke, and today’s ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme’ front page headlines from The Sun about some charity CEO’s salaries.