Charities must put their houses in order

Charities must put their houses in order

Charity bosses who allowed scandalous fundraising methods to be used were either “incompetent or willfully blind” and are on their last chance to “put their house in order”, a committee has warned.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said. Trustees must now take proper control of the methods their organisation use or face statutory regulation

In a damning assessment of the practices used by some of the biggest names to bring in cash, MPs warned the “sorry episode” had damaged the reputations of charities across the board.

MPs heard that some charities, including Great Ormond Street Hospital and Macmillan Cancer Support, made it difficult or impossible for donors to block further communication from them or other charities.

Some charities even sold on personal information to scamming companies who saw elderly and vulnerable people as “fair targets”.

It was found that at least one telephone fundraising contractor ignored the telephone preference service that allows customers to opt out of receiving unsolicited calls and had a script to allow fundraisers to continue to press for a donation even after discovering a vulnerable individual was confused or suffered from dementia.

MPs said they had “no doubt” that most UK charities did not engage in such practices but the behaviour of some had damaged the reputation of all and made it harder for them to raise money. The report found that fundraising is “increasingly competitive” and a large charity can spend more than £20 million a year on trying to bolster its coffers. Fundraising practices were thrust into the spotlight last year after widespread public concern over the death of 92-year-old Olive Cooke, one of Britain’s oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers.

After the pensioner took her own life, it came to light that she had been receiving repeated requests from charities for donations with up to 267 letters a month as well as regular phone calls.

During the PACAC’s investigation a number of charity bosses admitted there were flaws in their governance.

A Government-commissioned review chaired by Sir Stuart Etherington put forward plans to tackle the problems, including proposals for a new regulator to be convened by the industry. But while MPs backed the recommendations, they warned they did not go far enough. They called for the Charity Commission to do more to keep a check on the sector. The new regulator should seek out and encourage the public to report dubious practices and the Government should implement unused laws that allow the Information Commissioner to protect use of personal data, the committee also said.

What you can do if you feel you are being hounded is to contact the Fundraising Standards Board You can also get in touch with the Information Commissioner’s Office if you believe your personal details have been misused i.e. passed among charities without your consent.

Have you been pestered by charities? Does the knowledge that they can access your personal details put you off signing up to donate monthly amounts in response to those heart breaking television appeals.  We are interested to know what you think about charities using strong-arm tactics. Ed.