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  • Writer's pictureAppco UK

BLOG: Fundraising – putting complaints in context

The Fundraising Regulator’s complaints report was published on 24 October and, quite rightly, its findings have featured prominently in the sector press. However, the coverage has largely focused on the thousands of complaints charities received in 2016, and Appco UK believes a little more context is needed.

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Fundraising complaints figures are not black and white and need to be considered in context, says Appco UK.


A total of 893 charities of all sizes submitted information to the Fundraising Regulator (FR), which found that that there were 42,782 complaints to charities in 2016, across all methods of fundraising. Direct fundraising – via telephone, email, direct mail and face-to-face conversations – generated the most complaints.

In almost any context, 40,000+ is a big number, and it certainly needs addressing in terms of complaints about fundraising. But, with a little more clarification, this figure is not quite as outrage inspiring.

If those 42,782 complaints were evenly divided (which, of course, wouldn’t be the case in reality) among all 893 charities who submitted data to the FR, they would amount to approximately 48 per charity over the course of a year. Given the number of people the average charity engages in a year, this is not as dire as the coverage would have us believe.

The FR points out in the report that it’s important to be clear and consistent about what actually constitutes a complaint – as opposed to an enquiry or feedback – and to view complaints within the context of the level of fundraising activity being undertaken.

In terms of direct-mail fundraising alone, the report states that the charities involved sent 300 million pieces of direct mail last year, which attracted slightly more than 16,000 complaints. Again, a big-sounding number, but in context, amounts to a complaint rate of 0.0053%. The FR notes this is “a very low ratio of complaints when compared to activity”.

Complaints in door-to-door fundraising

The majority of the campaigns Appco UK’s fundraising division, Appco Group Support, operates for our charity clients are residential, or “door-to-door”.

According to the FR report, 6,921 complaints about this method were received by the 893 charities that participated (that’s about 16% of the total complaints). Again, when you factor in the huge number of people spoken to, this is an extremely low rate of 0.022%.

The face-to-face fundraising campaigns we conducted for charities in 2016 saw brand ambassadors speaking with approximately 2.5 million potential donors, which puts our complaint rate for last year at 0.029%. This is in line with the trends shown in the FR’s report and Appco UK has a team dedicated to making sure all complaints are handled swiftly and respectfully.

But, of course, there’s always room for improvement. We believe that any number of complaints must be addressed and reduced, and Appco UK is committed to working internally, with our clients and with the sector as a whole to do this.

As part of this process, we believe that it’s important to provide members of the public with clear and accurate information – which includes that all-important context – about all methods of fundraising so that we can increase understanding of the benefits and impact of this activity, as well as identify areas that need improvement.

Appco UK has been delivering face-to-face fundraising campaigns for charities since 1999. We believe in inspiring donors, through meaningful conversations, to give on a regular, ongoing basis and we continue to look at ways to improve our processes and standards to give donors the best possible experience and our charity partners the results they need to continue their work.

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