Fundraising Regulator report shows low ratio of complaints compared to fundraising activity for 2016

Melanie May | 25 October 2017 | News

The Fundraising Regulator has published its first report of annual complaints about fundraising received by charities since it took over the reporting from the FRSB.
According to the Fundraising Regulator’s report, 893 charities reported receiving 42,782 complaints in 2016. Overall fundraising using direct marketing (including contact by telephone, email and addressed direct mail) and face-to-face fundraising, in all forms, was the cause of the most complaints followed by public collections.
At the top, 16,131 complaints (38%) were received about addressed direct mail: a very low ratio of complaints versus activity, the Regulator points out, with over 300 million pieces of addressed direct mail sent out by the 893 charities last year. In addition, over 4,000 of these complaints were reported by four charities, each of which reported over 1,000 complaints with one reporting nearly 2,000. The vast majority (83%) of the complaints reported about addressed direct mail concerned the accompanying enclosures sent by charities.
The second most complained about method of fundraising was door-to-door, which received 6,921 complaints (16% of overall total), followed by 4,367 about email fundraising, and 4,168 about clothing collections. (both 10%) Telephone fundraising generated 5% of complaints reported, while private site face-to-face fundraising, lotteries and raffles each generated 3% each of the total number of complaints reported.
Where complaints were received about telephone fundraising, 35% concerned the use of telephone as a method of fundraising, with a further 22% of complaints relating to the frequency of contact. Complaints reported about the tone and content of the telephone calls were 10.9% and 7.2% respectively, with a further 8% concerning ‘Data Protection/Permission issues’.
The results are not directly comparable to the FRSB’s last Annual Complaints Return: this showed that 66,814 fundraising complaints were received in 2015, but from 1,500 charities, which were members of the FRSB.
The Fundraising Regulator has stated that it is placing a greater emphasis on what lessons can be learnt by the sector from the complaints, rather than focusing on statistics in its reporting, by providing an analysis of complaints received by charities, alongside an overview of its regulatory activity in 2016.
It also said that engagement by charities with its complaints reporting process has been encouraging and that a number of charities who were not previously members of the FRSB, but who pay the Regulator’s levy had expressed an interest in participating.
Stephen Dunmore, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said:

‘This report is a helpful and informative document which demonstrates the nature of complaints made by the public about fundraising practices and the positive progress made by the sector in addressing these concerns.
“We are delighted to have received nearly 900 responses, demonstrating the collaborative nature of the sector, as we work together to learn from complaints in order to improve public confidence in fundraising practices.”

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, commented on the findings, saying:

“As the Fundraising Regulator points out, there is a low proportion of complaints compared to contact with the public, which highlights that the vast majority of fundraising is carried out to a high standard.  However, there is always room for improvement and these findings will help the fundraising community to do even more to improve the way charities ask people for support.
“We welcome the Fundraising Regulator’s commitment to working with the sector to better understand the trends highlighted in this report and to review what data is collected and analysed in the future. Its decision to publish new guidance on how to manage and deal with complaints is particularly welcome, and we look forward to working with the Fundraising Regulator to make sure charities of all sizes can benefit from this new guidance.”

The full report is available on the Fundraising Regulator’s site.

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