The Sunday Telegraph has investigated face-to-face fundraising company Tag Campaigns, part of The Gift Group, and produced undercover video evidence that it says demonstrates "apparent breaches of the self-regulatory code of conduct" and "a failure to disclose to donors" how much the campaign was costing the charity concerned.
During a one-day training session, the reporter claims that trainee fundraisers were not informed of the need to make any disclosure that they are paid, a legal requirement for fundraisers in the UK. As a result, trainees within that group failed to make the required disclosures to the public.
Part of the footage included the trainee fundraisers being told that one technique used had been to confuse potential donors in order to get them to stop and talk. Best practice standards (the Institute of Fundraising’s Face-to-Face Code of Fundraising Practice, section 4.0) state that fundraisers should “never deliberately confuse, mislead or obstruct the public”.
Tag Campaigns fundraisers ask members of the public to make small donations by SMS. Donors are subsequently called and invited to become regular donors.
An undercover journalist filmed a training session for street fundraisers run by Tag Campaigns. The campaign was on behalf of Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Response from Fundraising Standards Board
This was shown to Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, who said that, based on the evidence presented to him, Tag Campaigns seemed to have committed clear breaches of the codes of practice.
He said: "The footage of both training and on-street fundraising that I was shown by The Sunday Telegraph is deeply worrying. Professional fundraisers are legally required to make a clear statement disclosing the cost of the campaign and must not deliberately confuse a member of the public.
He added that most charities using this method of fundraising did so extremely well and adhered to the necessary standards.
He confirmed that "The FRSB has discussed this issue with Marie Curie and is now contacting Tag Campaigns to investigate the allegations."
Ian MacQuillin, Head of Communications at the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), told The Sunday Telegraph: "If you are doing SMS text donations there must be a solicitation statement because there is a financial ask. To not do so is breaking the law."
Tag Campaigns' response
Tag Campaigns issued a statement saying: "Having conducted an urgent investigation into the specific allegations, and a review of our current practice, we have decided to institute a new and more rigorous training regime." It said that it would submit these proposals to the PFRA within the next few days.