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Pushy Fund-Raising Practises Push Away Donors

Using aggressive fund-raising techniques could be alienating supporters of various charities, according to NFP Synergy. The company warns that charities need to stop inundating their supporters with phone calls or they will run the risk of losing them.

NFP Synergy is a research company which has among its clients some of the country's largest charities. They found that more than half of people contacted via telephone for donations are “very annoyed” by both telephone and doorstep fundraising efforts.

Charities insist that cold-calling is a vital part of their fundraising efforts, but some – like Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke – warn that the practise is toxic to the reputation of the organisation.

According to the BBC, Elphicke ran a campaign last year that called for a crackdown street charity fund-raisers. He claims that it is the vulnerable who are being profiled.

"You've got people who are not necessarily committed to the charity just calling up on commission, so they're paid by the amount that they raise. It's not policed properly by the charity because they've outsourced it,” Elphicke said.

He went on to say that charities are only doing themselves harm using these tactics. “They just put people off the idea of charitable giving,” he said.

Figures from 2011-2012 show that charities increased cold calling by 1.5 million calls from the year before. The same year, complaints about the calls went up by 64 percent.

Andy Lloyd-Williams, a former call centre employee, said that if a potential donor hung up on him or became upset or angry, he and his colleagues were told to try them back repeatedly. "I had to phone people, give them a sob story, make them feel guilty and get their money," he said.

He went on to say that it was company policy that he had to, “hear them clearly say no three times before we should stop.”

Claire McGowan of south-east London began receiving calls from a charity she'd once supported supported after cancelling a direct debit after her marriage broke up. The charity is well known for running may fundraising events, such as fun runs, mobile bingo and yard sales.

"They called me every day, day and night, for three weeks, even after I'd asked them not to. It was a salesman trying to get me to sign up again, playing a guilt trip and I felt hounded in my own home. I would have gone back to them one day but it's put me off. I'll be much more selective if I give to charity in future," she said.

NFP Synergy director Joe Saxton said that is in no evidence as of yet to suggest that cold calling has had an adverse effect on fund-raising, but rather that, "the real danger is that individual charities lose out or you see people giving up on this kind of fund-raising and that's why charities have a real dilemma.”

"What we need to see is more self-regulation by charities,” Saxton continued. He further commented that street funding has gained a more favourable reputation over the past five years, but, “now need to work as a fund-raising industry on the doorstep and telephone fundraising as much as we've worked on street fund-raising."

The Institute of Fundraising sets guidelines for charities contacting the public via telephone. They said that fund raisers are aware of the critical nature of maintaining public confidence and building trust in charities and that fund-raising the right way is key to that.

"Any complaint is regrettable and is treated seriously by our members, but it is important to keep this in proportion and remember that the overall number of complaints is very low compared to the number of times people are asked for support," the Institute said.

The Fundraising Standards Board regulates and holds charities to the standard set forth in its code of practise. They said that, allegations of fund-raising tactics deemed 'pushy' would be of great concern to them, due to their potential to damage public confidence and trust. “Charities must listen carefully to any such feedback from their supporters and consider how this might influence or improve future campaigns," they said.

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