1 Aug 2015

Charities could face sanctions for aggressive fundraising

Charities could face criminal sanctions for bullying the public into giving money, regulators have warned.

Fines could be issued as part of the first statutory regime for fundraising after a number of concerns were raised about the way charities go about collecting their money.

Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross told The Times that if charities failed to address abuses, his organisation was willing to regulate street “chuggers”, door-to-door collectors, call centres and direct mail appeals.

This comes after the suicide of Britain’s longest-serving poppy seller Olive Cook who said she was receiving up to 267 letters a month from charities asking for donations.

The 92-year-old was found dead in Avon Gorge in Bristol two days before the anniversary of VE Day. Her family later said that while the calls and letters were intrusive, they were not to blame for her death.

In the wake of Mrs Cooke’s death, the government commissioned a review by Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary organisations.

Mr Shawcross said: “If he concludes that self-regulation by charities cannot work, then government would have to consider whether the Charity Commission should regulate fund raising.”

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, Sir Stephen Bubb, said: “No charity leader I know supports harassment or bullying when there are fundraising.”

“I think that damages charities, but I think there is another side to this and the fact is last year street fund raising and door-to-door fund raising raised £140m for good causes. So over a million people signed up to charities to do good.”

Under the new regulations charities and fund raisers would be banned from high-pressure tactics, repeatedly targeting people and making misleading claims.