Complaints against charity marketing tactics increase 9%

Complaints about doorstep and telephone fundraising and data use spiralled last year according to the annual complaints report compiled by the Fundraising Standards Board. 


Complaints against charities soliciting donations through doorstep fundraising increased 93 per cent to 5,555 with complaints focused on fundraisers’ behaviour and the public’s “general dislike” of the method.

Telephone fundraising attracted 64 per cent more complaints (6,379) than last year and the volume of telephone activity increased 15 per cent. To address concerns over telephone fundraising, the FRSB plans to introduce a new auditing process.

Data protection accounts for 10 per cent of all complaints handled by charities, which the report claims demonstrates widespread “poor data management” rather than isolated incidents.

Complaints about direct mail have fallen for the first time since the report began in 2008 although it is still the main target of complaints. It now accounts for 40 per cent of all complaints, down from 48 per cent last year. Just 2 per cent of complaints are about advertising.

There were 33,744 complaints registered in 2012, a 9 per cent increase from the 30,848 made the previous year, which is a marked slowdown from the 67 per cent increase registered last year. There was a 38 per cent increase in fundraising activity during 2012.

The report found the majority of complaints are generated by larger charities which undertake larger volumes of marketing communications and fundraising activity.

More than two thirds (68 per cent) of charities reported no complaints about their fundraising.

Colin Lloyd, chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, says: “With so many charities reporting no complaints at all and the overwhelming majority of issues being resolved at Stage 1, the charity sector as a whole continues to perform well. But the sector must not be complacent. Looking across the full data set, there are a number of fundraising activities and behaviour that the public is unhappy about.”

“Fundraisers must take great care in what they do and how their actions may be perceived. Often it is a fine line between communicating the cause and need for funding effectively, while ensuring that members of the public do not feel uncomfortable with the way fundraisers go about it.”

The FRSB is a self-regulatory body that oversees 1,068 charities in the UK with fundraising programmes that earn £4.16bn in funds each year.

Top 10 Complaints by Fundraising Method

                                                 Complaints       Fundraising Volume

Addressed direct mail                      12,474           165,866,207
Telephone fundraising                      6,379              11,505,202
Doorstep face-to-face fundraising      5,555              43,617,913
Clothing collections                         1,910             148,801,675
Email fundraising                            1,887             137,478,598
Outdoor events                               1,024                 1,559,087
Street face-to-face fundraising          820                 29,984,760
Unaddressed direct mail                  747                116,383,124
Lotteries                                         656                 44,598,177
Private site face-to-face fundraising  435                      346,908

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