Fundraising watchdog to tighten rules for doorstep charity collections after 'deeply concerning’ report findings

26 March 2024, 11:04

The Fundraising Regulator is imposing stricter guidelines for doorstep fundraising.
The Fundraising Regulator is imposing stricter guidelines for doorstep fundraising. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The Fundraising Regulator is toughening up guidance for fundraisers after a report found ‘performance-related pay models’ were increasing ‘poor behaviour’.

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The watchdog said that under the new guidance charities must ensure that subcontracting firms who carry out fundraising on their behalf are monitored more closely and that they receive appropriate training.

Charities and agencies must ensure they are satisfied with the payment model that fundraisers use to prevent any bad practice, it also said, adding that recruits should really earn a “living wage”.

It comes after a Times investigation revealed how fundraisers for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) were taught psychological motivators in a bid to predict the public’s objections.

This resulted in the recruits, who were earning commission rather than an hourly wage, pressuring customers despite the Code of Fundraising Practice warning against putting people under “undue pressure”.

Gerald Oppenheim, the chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said that reports have highlighted how things “are not as good as they ought to be” in the sector.

He agreed that the new guidance act as a warning to charities about fundraising etiquette, as he told the outlet: “You have to know and understand who’s doing it for you.

“[You have to know] ‘Who’s wearing our t-shirt when going door-to-door and have they been properly briefed?’

“There is enough evidence around now, from the reporting that’s taken place since last summer, that things are not as good as they ought to be.”

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The investigation found that pressure-selling techniques were being taught.
The investigation found that pressure-selling techniques were being taught. Picture: Alamy

He added that organisations, such as GOSH charity, needed to “learn from all of this to make sure that they are not caught out again in any way” or if they are make sure they “deal with it straight away”.

Last October, the regulator conducted a market inquiry into the use of subcontractors for door-to-door fundraising following reports of worrying behaviour.

Charities contract door-to-door fundraising to third-party agencies, which can also subcontract the fundraising to other marketing firms.

The market inquiry found that there was evidence of “poor fundraising practice” during door-to-door collections.

It concluded in its recommendations that “robust monitoring” and “oversight” of subcontractors was imperative to ensure the Code of Fundraising Practice was being adhered to.

The report also recommended charities make sure that fundraisers collecting on their behalf are paid reflecting their skills and the values of the charity.

Inquiry leader Jim Tebbett said: “We say that we think you should be paid a living wage if you’re a fundraiser — which we don’t think is particularly radical.

“We’re recognising that some performance-related pay models — especially those which use commission — can increase the risk of poor practice.”

An ongoing review of the Code of Fundraising Practice will also f the findings of the report. dvice on due diligence, training, monitoring, contractual standards and accountability in subcontracting.

An ongoing review of the Code of Fundraising Practice will also factor in the findings of the report in its review.

Holly Riley, head of strategic policy at the Charity Commission, said: “As stated in our guidance, all charities should raise money in a considerate and responsible way, mindful that public generosity can never be taken for granted.”

Claire Stanley, director of policy and communications at the CIOF, said members and agencies carrying out face-to-face fundraising would be offered training courses.

The watchdog also launched a separate investigation into the findings of The Times investigation about the use of pressure-selling techniques. The investigation is still ongoing.

GOSH Charity said it was “deeply concerned” by the outlet’s findings and vowed to fully investigate.

The third-party marketing firm involved, IBA Global, said it operated a “strict policy of reasonable persuasion only” on doorsteps.