UK NonProfit Fundraising Complaints Top 18,000

18,442 fundraising complaints were received during 2010, reports the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) in its Annual Report Confident About Fundraising.

Direct mail, telephone and doorstep face-to-face fundraising accrued the highest number of complaints but, as a proportion of fundraising volume, complaint levels in each of these areas remained modest. Street fundraising yielded the highest complaint level to fundraising volume at 0.17%, however the measurement unit is for donor sign-ups rather than solicitations made. Corporate fundraising also generated a high proportion of complaints at 0.136%.

Further analysis of the issues underlying those complaints has revealed that data protection and ‘poor’ data (where contacts are incorrectly addressed or deceased) together lead to around 3,000 complaints (one sixth of all complaints recorded). Of the 1,200 recorded data protection complaints, the large majority related to direct mail (46%), email (29%) and telephone fundraising (23%). Data protection complaints fuelled more than three quarters (76%) of all email complaints. A further 2,000 complaints were attributed to poor data used in direct mail and telephone fundraising campaigns.

Across all fundraising methods, 515 complaints related to legacy fundraising complaints (up from 156 in 2009). The majority of these complaints related to direct mail (80%), TV advertising (12%) and telephone fundraising (6%).

Although the number of complaints in 2010 is far higher than in 2009, fewer complaints required the formal intervention of the FRSB, suggesting that charities are handling complaints well. Only 12 complaints (concerning a range of fundraising activities) were escalated to Stage 2, requiring the formal intervention and proposed resolution by the FRSB. 2 complaints were elevated to Stage 3 for final adjudication, one of which was rejected and the other was upheld.

In 2010, the FRSB received a total of 34 complaints about non-members. The majority of non-member complaints were about bogus clothing collections.

Key observations of the report:

  • Of 3.9 billion donor contacts, 18,442 complaints were received.
  • The top 50 charities by voluntary income account for 66% of all complaints and 91% of fundraising volume.
  • 71% of members reported no complaints.
  • The top 3 fundraising activities by volume are TV advertising, online advertising and press advertising.
  • Addressed direct mail generated the highest number of complaints (9,462). But, this equates to only 0.006% of the reported volume.
  • Street fundraising incurred the highest proportion of complaints against volume at 0.17%
  • Data protection generated 1,200 complaints and ‘poor data’ resulted in approximately 2,000 further complaints
  • Only 12 complaints were escalated to Stage 2 of the FRSB complaints process and 2 of these went to a full adjudication.
  • September 2010 saw the first upheld adjudication since the introduction of self-regulation of fundraising to the UK.
  • The use of direct mail fell by 27% over the past year and yet the number of complaints increased by 86%.
  • The number of people being contacted through telephone fundraising has increased by 134% over the past year, 245% over the past two years.
  • Outdoor events (including challenge events) have increased by 22%, and yet the rate of complaints has dropped by 27%.