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Article posted on Third Sector UK By Jenna Pudelek 4 January 2013
Fundraiser allegedly misled undercover reporters about how donations were spent and failed to provide a solicitation statement
The housing charity Shelter has suspended its use of the fundraising agency Tag Campaigns after one of its fundraisers was reportedly found breaking charity law and regulations.
An article published last month in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper alleged that one of Tag’s fundraisers working on a street fundraising campaign for Shelter made misleading comments to one of its reporters and broke charity law by failing to make a solicitation statement.
The newspaper said two reporters, posing as potential donors, separately recorded the same Tag fundraiser. One asked him whether all the money donated went to Shelter, saying “nothing wasted on admin and your costs or anything like?” The fundraiser replied, after a pause, “not as far as I know”.
The reporter donated £3 to the campaign, but the fundraiser did not provide a solicitation statement, which sets out the costs and target amount to be raised during the campaign and must be made by law.
According to the newspaper, the fundraiser said that if “everyone donates just a one-off donation, that’s £30m in London, that would be enough money to solve the problem”. Shelter said it did not recognise this figure.
Two other fundraisers working on the campaign did make solicitation statements, the newspaper said.
This allegation comes after an investigation by the Fundraising Standards Board, published last month, found that Tag fundraisers had deliberately misled, confused and obstructed members of the public while providing an appeal for Marie Curie Cancer Care in London last June. The investigation was launched after an undercover investigation, also carried out by The Sunday Telegraph.
Tracy Griffin, fundraising director at Shelter, said it was “extremely concerned” by the report and had suspended all of its work with Tag with immediate effect while the report was being investigated.
“We regularly train and ‘mystery shop’ our face-to-face teams, and also make quality assurance calls to new donors to ensure they are satisfied with the way they’ve been approached and are still happy to make a gift,” said Griffin. “All of our agency fundraisers should abide by a strict industry code of practice, and we will be looking into how this has failed on this occasion as a matter of urgency.”
She said Shelter was planning to bring its whole face-to-face fundraising operation in-house early this year.
A spokesman for Tag said it had taken disciplinary action against the fundraiser involved in the latest allegations.
“The fundraiser concerned was trained on the requirement to make a financial disclosure during each interaction, and had signed a form confirming he had understood this,” he said.
“As soon as The Sunday Telegraph published its piece, Tag initiated disciplinary proceedings and the individual is no longer working with us.”
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said he was alarmed to hear about the fresh allegations just one week after the report was published.
“It certainly highlights the importance of our original recommendation that Tag should commit to a monitoring programme,” he said. “Something is not right for this to happen less than a week after the report into the previous exposé.”
The FRSB’s report on its investigation recommended that Tag should agree to be monitored by the complaints body for a year so that the new systems the company says have been put in place can be assessed.
Ian MacQuillin, head of communications at the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, said it would be meeting representatives from Tag and the FRSB this month to discuss how the FRSB’s recommendations could be implemented. The latest reports of a Tag fundraiser failing to make the solicitation statement would also be taken into consideration, he said.
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