In one of its last adjudication rulings published, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has upheld a complaint about Direct Debit donor recruitment campaigns for the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (Battersea).
The adjudication report has now been passed on to the new Fundraising Regulator, which took responsibility for regulating charity fundraising on 7th July 2016.
The report establishes that both RSPCA and Battersea had commissioned the agency Fundraising Initiatives Ltd (FIL) to recruit Direct Debit supporters on their behalf at several private sites (which included supermarkets and shopping centres).
Between July and September 2015, the complainant raised concerns with both charities about the conduct of FIL, alleging that neither charity appeared to be adequately monitoring the agency’s delivery of their fundraising campaigns. He complained that the charities did not know the specific locations where FIL was fundraising on their behalf and that the agency had not made the site owners aware or obtained necessary permission for securing Direct Debit donations. He also alleged that FIL fundraisers were not presenting the required solicitation statement to potential supporters. The complaint was escalated to the FRSB in September 2015.
One month after the complaint was raised with the FRSB, in October 2015, FIL went into administration and the agency ceased trading.
During the adjudication, the FRSB concluded that FIL had misrepresented the true purpose of the fundraising campaigns it was operating on behalf of the RSPCA and Battersea, finding all three organisations in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice. While FIL misled site owners about the focus of its fundraising activities, the FRSB found both charities at fault for having failed to adequately monitor the agency’s compliance with the requirements of the Code. In addition, the three organisations also breached the Code by failing to comply with the requirements of fundraising sites, where owners had prohibited the collection of Direct Debit payments.
Because the complainant had not made a donation and the solicitation process had not been initiated, there was no evidence to indicate that fundraisers would not have completed the required solicitation statement, which is a standard component of their donation process. However, the FRSB underlined the importance for fundraisers to be fully briefed on the content of any solicitation statements; not just so they are able to deliver compliant fundraising pitches but so that they can also answer more general questions about the campaign.
The FRSB acknowledged that significant remedial action had been taken by both the RSPCA and Battersea to address the shortcomings identified in this case.
Regulatory responsibilities for fundraising now sit with the new Fundraising Regulator. Commenting on the adjudication, Stephen Dunmore of the new Fundraising Regulator, says: “This adjudication report identifies once again the need for charities to monitor closely the compliance of their fundraising agencies with the Code of Fundraising Practice and to comply with the requirements in relation to site-specific fundraising. Effective monitoring of third parties is essential if donors are to be treated with respect and provided with the information necessary to make informed choices.
“The Fundraising Regulator is considering what further actions need to be taken arising from the report’s findings and recommendations.”
The adjudication report is available at the FRSB’s latest adjudications webpage.