Many will have seen the stories in national newspapers around the death of Olive Cooke, a long serving poppy seller and volunteer for the British Legion. Concerns have been raised as to whether her death was linked to the volume of requests from charities seeking to raise funds for their cause.
In an interview before her death, Mrs Cooke said she had received 267 fundraising letters from dozens of charities in one month. In the same month, the Fundraising Standards Board referred a complaint about a telephone fundraising call made on behalf of Breast Cancer Campaign by a fundraising agency to the Information Commissioner’s Office over concerns that an individual who had registered with the Telephone Preference Service had been contacted unlawfully. These stories serve as a reminder to all charities which carry out fundraising activities to take great care to ensure that they are acting within both the letter and the spirit of the law in order to preserve their reputation and goodwill amongst their supporters and the wider public and also acting sensitively when soliciting gifts, especially from those more vulnerable members of society. The reputational fall-out for charities that get it wrong could be huge, thus deterring future supporters.
The sector of course relies mainly on self-regulation for fundraising activities (although a breach of legislative requirements can bring with it serious consequences for a charity). The Charity Commission does not regulate fundraising directly. The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) regulates a charity’s compliance with the standards set out in the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice, however the adoption of the Code is not compulsory yet, but should be followed as best practice.
If your charity carries out fundraising activities, it is important that membership of the Institute of Fundraising and other professional fundraising bodies is considered, and that the Code of Fundraising Practice that the Institute issues is adopted understood and implemented.
If you outsource your fundraising activities to a third party provider, it is important to ensure that they commit to upholding the Code and that you receive assurances that their staff receive appropriate training on how to approach members of the public to ensure that they do not feel pressured into giving.
When looking at fundraising over the telephone, you will need to ensure that the individual who is being called has not opted out from receiving marketing calls and in particular whether they have been registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Such individuals should not be contacted.
Care should also be taken to ensure that the requirements of data protection legislation are followed when processing personal data such as names and contact details (whether by you directly or by a third party on your behalf), as the Information Commissioner’s Office has the power to impose substantial fines to those who fall foul of requirements. Some high profile charities have seen themselves in breach of these requirements.
In addition, if the FRSB finds a case of non-compliance with the Code, or a breach of data protection law, this could also land your trustees in trouble with the Charity Commission if their action or inaction is severe enough to amount to a breach of their duties under charity law, which could then result in regulatory action by the Commission.