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News : Charities Should Face Fundraising Ban If They Harass Donors
London, UK, September, 2015 -- Charities that harass or abuse donors should be named and shamed, and in some cases banned from approaching the public for money, a government-commissioned review of fundraising has recommended.
The review suggests a tough new regulatory regime to restore public trust after recent scandals in which some of Britain’s biggest charities admitted that aggressive fundraising techniques had been used to target elderly and vulnerable donors.
A panel of cross-party members of the House of Lords said in the review that the current system of self-regulation, in which charities effectively police their own conduct, was "no longer fit for purpose" and called for the creation of a fundraising "opt-out" register, which would enable members of the public to stop charities cold-calling them or bombarding them with direct mail.
High-profile charities admitted this month that the voluntary sector had failed to meet the high standards expected of it and pledged to in future behave in an "open, honest and respectful way" towards donors and the public.
The chair of the review, Sir Stuart Etherington, said: "We seem to have found ourselves in a position where charities didn’t think hard enough about what it was like to be on the receiving end of some of their fundraising methods.
"They thought too much about the ends and not enough about the means. This has been a clear wake-up call and now is the time to tighten the standards."
The review said that although charities had a right to ask the public for money, the public had a right to be left alone, or treated with respect and humility by fundraisers. The balance between giving and asking had "sometimes gone awry", despite the good intentions of the charities.
"Some of the techniques used, or the manner in which they have been used, present a clear risk of damaging charities, in the public eye," it said.
After her death, it emerged that Olive Cooke had received thousands of phone calls and letters from charities. Photograph: PA
Ministers set up the review after Olive Cooke, a 92-year-old volunteer poppy seller for the Royal British Legion, killed herself in May this year. After Cooke’s death, it emerged that she had received thousands of phone calls and letters from charities asking her for money.
Subsequent stories exposed the cynical tactics employed by call centre companies contracted by several charities to extract cash from elderly donors, and revealed that charities had sold personal data about 87-year-old Samuel Rae, who has dementia, to scam firms who used it to target him.
Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, said: "I welcome the report as an important contribution and aim to consider fully before responding shortly."
The review said the existing Fundraising Standards Board was under-resourced and suffered from a failure to take tough action against charities that breached the fundraising code, losing the confidence of both the public and charities.
It should be replaced by a new body, called the Fundraising Regulator, which would be responsible for operating the code of conduct and acting against those who flouted it.
Charities that broke the rules would face sanctions including naming and shaming, cease and desist orders, compulsory training, and a requirement to have future fundraising campaigns cleared by the authorities.
Members of the public should be able to sign up to a Fundraising Preference Service operated by the new regulator, which would prevent charity fundraisers from contacting them without their permission.
The regulator would be funded by a levy on charities whose annual fundraising expenditure is £100,000 or more. Although the regulator would not be state-run, the government would appoint its first chair, and it would be accountable to the House of Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee.
Alongside tougher regulation, there was also a need to change the values and attitudes of charities and individuals involved in soliciting donations from the public, the review concluded.
It said: "Fundraising needs to move above and beyond regulation and compliance, from simply just doing things right to also doing the right thing. Charities need to view and approach fundraising no longer as just a money-raising technique, but as a way in which they can provide a connection between the donor and the cause."
Lord Leigh, the Conservative peer and review member, said: "Charities should be a conduit by which the public’s time, energy and donations can be transformed into work that benefits society. But that must mean a partnership between charities and donors, rather than donors being seen as a means to an end."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About House of Lords:
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster.
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2015