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81% of complaints to Fundraising Regulator in 2017/18 upheld

81% of complaints to Fundraising Regulator in 2017/18 upheld

The majority of complaints made to the between April 2017 and August 2018 were upheld, its latest Complaints Report shows.

Published today, the Fundraising Regulator’s report reveals that it conducted 78 investigations between these dates and found that 63 of the cases constituted a breach of the .

The 78 investigations were into a range of fundraising activities and included large and small organisations, with 25 of the investigations into charities that spend less than £150,000 per year on fundraising.


Complaints Report


The most common type of code breaches concerned general principles and complaints, third party fundraisers and personal data. Other areas investigated included how charities monitor third party fundraising agencies who work on their behalf, complaints handling, charity bags and the Fundraising Preference Service.

The Regulator’s investigations found that the most commonly identified themes and learning from the investigations were:

  • Using misleading information in a fundraising communication, with charities needing to check the information and data used, and ensure they show the facts accurately in imagery and text.
  • Managing supporter’s data and complaints handling, with a need for better systems to make sure charities are able to action requests to be removed from the database.
  • Monitoring third-party fundraising agencies who work on their behalf, with charities needing systems to manage, monitor and make sure they are compliant.
  • Charity bag collections, with a need for better management of address lists and collections to ensure they take place, and that do-not-call requests are observed.

According to the Regulator, there was a clear willingness and commitment from the organisations to make changes where Code breaches were identified.

The Complaints Report also looked at complaints reported by the 58 charities who spent the most on fundraising. These charities reported receiving a total of 21,851 complaints from April 2017 to March 2018. Door-to-door fundraising was the largest complaint type, whilst addressed mail dropped to the second most popular complaint type. Other complaints centred around clothing collections, online fundraising and outdoor events.

Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator, Gerald Oppenheim, said:

“Our Complaints Report is vital to our understanding of fundraising standards in the UK and helps us inform our work. Complaints made by the public make an important contribution to the way we, charities and their fundraising partners learn from concerns and make improvements. We will continue to review and evaluate the complaints process and we look forward to working closely with charities to ensure high standards of fundraising practice are maintained.”

Michael Smyth, Chair of the Fundraising Regulator Complaints Committee, said:

“In a tricky year for fundraising, the sector has stayed resilient and demonstrated its commitment to self-regulation and transparency. There is still room for improvement in terms of how charities initially deal with complaints and manage third parties before issues are escalated to the Fundraising Regulator, but I have been reassured by the sector’s receptiveness to our recommendations and the willingness of charities to engage with the self-regulatory model.”

Responding to the Fundraising Regulator’s complaints report, Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, also commented, saying:

“The Complaints Report shows that charities are committed to delivering an excellent experience for supporters and the general public. The comparatively small number of complaints compared to the fundraising activities that inspire millions of people to give every year is positive. Having said that, each complaint and breach of the Code should be taken seriously and used to improve the experience of supporters.

“As this report makes clear the vast majority of complaints that go to the Fundraising Regulator are dealt with by the charities themselves. It is therefore not surprising that the majority of complaints that are investigated by the Fundraising Regulator are found to beach the Code, as these are ones that charities have not been able to solve and have been escalated. The learnings from these investigations are essential.”

The IoF will be discussing the findings of the report with its Standards Advisory Board to identify whether any further guidance or resources are needed for fundraisers.


Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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