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Charities and subcontractors breached fundraising code, regulator finds

The fundraising regulator has criticized two charities and their subcontracted agencies after investigating complaints about correspondence with potentially vulnerable members of the public.

It is inquiry into SOS Children’s Villages UK and the agency Zen Fundraising Ltd found that both breached their code of practice when a fundraiser tried to pressure an autistic member of the public to donate despite the person indicating they did not want to.

Fundraisers were also recorded laughing at an offensive remark made by a passerby, which breached the code’s politeness requirement.

Also, the regulator found that Breast Cancer Now and its contracted fundraising agency APPCO UK breached its code, the latter taking donations from a vulnerable person they “had good reason to believe lacked capacity”.

The charity is updating its fundraising training

Both the charity and the agency accepted the findings of the inquiry, which ruled that neither had acted in a discriminatory manner.

A spokesman for the charity told Civil Society it takes adherence to the regulator’s code “very seriously” and has implemented recommendations from the regulator, such as updating training to ensure fundraisers can identify more well and can consider the needs of vulnerable people.

“We have strict contracts in place to ensure that agencies contracted to fundraise on our behalf adhere to the Fundraising Code of Practice and undertake thorough training of all fundraising and performance monitoring, including on-site checks and visits of observation.”

The regulator opened its investigation into SOS Children’s Villages and Zen Fundraising after WalesOnline reported that members of the public were pressured to donate to the charity through fundraisers.

Breast Cancer Now reviews practices

The regulator found that Breast Cancer Now had breached its code by failing to ensure that the subcontractor was complying with it.

Both the charity and APPCO UK accepted the findings of the inquiry.

A spokesperson for Breast Cancer Now told Civil Society: “The safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in our fundraisers is our top priority and we take any complaints made extremely seriously.

“We accept the recommendations of the fundraising regulator’s report on this complaint and have carried out a thorough review of our face-to-face fundraising practices to ensure that all fundraising agencies working on our behalf comply fully meet our high standards and adhere to our code of conduct at all times.”

APPCO UK has also worked with GOSH Charity this year, who recently reported to regulatory authorities on allegations of pressure selling.

Gerald Oppenheim, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “Charities and fundraising agencies should take careful note of our findings in these investigations.

“Fundraisers need to be trained to recognize when they might be interacting with a potentially vulnerable person and act accordingly.”