Regulator seeks to understand 'significant increase' in fundraising complaints – Third Sector

06 August 2021 by Rebecca Cooney
The Fundraising Regulator says it is looking into why the number of complaints it has received has jumped in recent months compared with the same period pre-pandemic
The Fundraising Regulator has recorded a “significant increase” in complaints about fundraising over the past few months and is trying to understand why, its head of policy has said. 
Speaking at a webinar held jointly with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising  about safe fundraising following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, Charlotte Urwin said it was not yet clear what had caused the rise in complaints between March and June compared with the same period in 2019.
She said the regulator planned to release a detailed analysis of the complaints it had received over the past year in the autumn.
But, she said, despite the fact that some members of the public expressed anxiety to the regulator over the return of face-to-face fundraising after the first lockdown, there had not been a “huge spike in complaints or concerns raised” when it ended last year. 
“That feels very positive to me in terms of the sector being responsible, fundraising safely and responsibly and thinking about what they’re doing.” 
But Urwin said: “In the last couple of months we have seen an increase in complaints that we received between March and June 2021… so we’ve seen a significant increase compared to the same period in 2018/19.
“We are looking to see if there’s anything more we can understand about why we’re seeing that increase, whether that increase is sustained or whether it’s just where activity has started again in the last couple of months leading to an increase in complaints.”
While the regulator did not yet have detailed information about the types of complaints, she said, the most common ones related to charity bags, addressed mail and digital fundraising – all fundraising methods that attracted higher levels of complaints before the pandemic.
She said the regulator had also experienced a high volume of enquiries from fundraisers, which she said demonstrated that they were keen to ensure they were fundraising safely and responsibly, and urged anyone with questions to contact the regulator’s enquiry service. 
Daniel Fluskey, the CIoF’s head of policy and external affairs, who led the webinar alongside Urwin, said the membership body’s conversations with members had been “reassuring”. 
He said: “I don’t think we have seen particularly high levels of complaints in terms of people feeling that it wasn’t appropriate for charities to fundraise during the pandemic or that it wasn’t right to be asking during this time.”
He said it was possible there would be a spike in complaint levels as more organisations returned to face-to-face fundraising, because the number of complaints tended to correspond with the level of fundraising that was happening at the time.
Looking to the future, Fluskey said fundraisers needed to “plan for uncertainty” in order to be ready for winter restrictions, another wave or new variants of Covid-19. 
“Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you need not just a plan B but probably most of the alphabet in terms of plans for what you’re going to be doing in the months ahead.”
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