Charities have ‘only themselves to blame’ as public backs tighter fundraising regulation

More than two-thirds of the British public thinks charity fundraising should be more tightly regulated even if it means they raise less money, according to new research, following a year of criticism over some fundraising practices.

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The report by charity research consultancy nfpSynergy found that 71% of those surveyed think greater regulation is needed, while 68% think the Government should be doing more to scrutinise charities and their activities.

Just 30% think charities have done a good job of defending and explaining their fundraising practices in light of recent negative media coverage.

That opinion is mirrored by MPs, with 63% agreeing that tighter regulation is needed and 62% that it is up to Government to look into charities’ activities.

Source: nfpSynergy
Source: nfpSynergy

nfpSynergy’s director of tracking research Tim Harrison says: “Public trust in charities has fallen this year, and sadly we have only ourselves to blame. It’s now clear that MPs from all parties are keen to respond to this by backing a crackdown on invasive fundraising practices.

“It’s time to accept that new regulation is on its way and prepare to phase out any practices that the public find particularly objectionable.”

The charity sector has come in for criticism this year over its fundraising practices, kickstarted by the death of fundraiser Olive Cooke who it was claimed received hundreds of calls from charities asking for money, although there was no indication that played a role in her death.

That had an impact on consumer perceptions of the sector, according to YouGov’s CharityIndex. It also led to a review of fundraising practices which recommended charities should exercise greater control over their direct marketing activities.

Anthony Newman, head of brand, marketing and communcations at Cancer Research UK told Marketing Week that charities need to do a better job of communicating how they fundraise and the important role it plays.

“Fundraising is in a difficult place you can’t deny it. There has been a lot in the press, some of it fair some of it less fair, about fundraising practices. It makes our communications work all the more important in terms of cutting through to people on why we do this work, why its so important,” he said.

“We need to better explain that our results are 80p in the pound goes to the cause. We don’t have bloated fundraising and marketing costs. We are making a huge difference.”

Specific charities have also been called out. A series of allegations by national newspapers including The Mail into fundraising prompted an investigation by the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB). It has ruled Oxfam placed “undue pressure” on the public to donate and that although it had not specifically targeted older supporters as was claimed, it had breached the UK’s fundraising practice code.

“For the sake of the critical work of the sector and the needs of its beneficiaries, all fundraisers must listen carefully to the views of the public.”

Andrew Hind, chair, FRSB

“Only by doing so will charities succeed in building trust in fundraising over the long term and engaging the public more fully in their work.”