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Charities Criticised by Regulator in Neet Feet Adjudication

Charities Criticised by Regulator in Neet Feet Adjudication

Charity fundraising and legal regulations

In its first ever adjudication decision, the Fundraising Regulator has criticised the actions of seven charities which employed the defunct fundraising agency Neet Feet.

The regulator ruled that Action for Children, Home Farm Trust, the RNIB, Save the Children, Smile Train, UNICEF and World Animal Protection “did not employ all reasonable efforts to ensure” that the agency’s work was in compliance with the Code of Fundraising Practice.

The chief executives of all seven charities have been called upon to write to the Fundraising Regulator “within three months to confirm what action they have taken in response to [its] findings and recommendations.”

Fundraisers found to use aggressive tactics

Neet Feet was found to have breached six sections of the Code of Fundraising Practice. Its fundraisers were said to have “deliberately intimidated, misled and targeted the vulnerable” and were “derogatory to the public, accepted donations from vulnerable people, were unreasonably persistent and misleading in pressuring donors, fundraised under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and did not employ best efforts to ensure donors were over the age of 18.”

A probe into Neet Feet was launched after an investigator for the Sun newspaper spent six weeks as a “chugger” and discovered evidence that the agency’s fundraisers used aggressive tactics, targeted the young and elderly, and used illegal drugs during working hours.

The regulator’s adjudication committee found that while each charity had contracts in place with Neet Feet which “contractually required Neet Feet not to conduct itself in a way that would bring its clients into disrepute”, no charity outlined how the agency’s “compliance with the Code was to be monitored or prescribed how frequently, or in what form, that monitoring would take place”.

Fundraising Regulator chairman Lord Grade told the Sun: “The practices undertaken by Neet Feet fell far short of the ethical and respectful standards we expect.”

New fundraising rules for charities

New fundraising rules for charities came into force on November 1st 2016.

The Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator have jointly issued FAQs about the new rules. The changes affect charities that engage with commercial participators or professional fundraisers, and bigger charities which are required to have their accounts audited.

The new rules call on additional information to be submitted in agreements involving commercial participators and professional fundraisers relating to how vulnerable people and other members of the public will be protected from unreasonable behaviour when fundraising activities are being undertaken, and how compliance with these requirements will be monitored by the charity.

The new rules are in response to concern about a lack of public confidence and trust in charities. The Charity Commission has said the changes are intended to “help charities to demonstrate their commitment to protecting donors and the public, including vulnerable people, from poor fundraising practices.”

Previous research has suggested that increased transparency about how donations are spent and the impact of those donations is likely to increase charitable giving.

The new regulator which is putting charities in order

The Fundraising Regulator was launched on July 7th 2016. It assumed responsibility for regulating fundraising activity by charities from the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB). Protection of donors, and in particular vulnerable people, is at the top of its agenda. The Fundraising Regulator also takes responsibility for the Code of Fundraising Practice from the FRSB and the Public Fundraising Rule Books from the Public Fundraising Association.

Speaking at the regulator’s launch event, Lord Grade said: “The damage to public confidence experienced by charities affects the whole sector. No regulator can be effective without the confidence of the public and the support of the sector it regulates. Many charities have accepted that things must change and that they can be instrumental in leading that change”.

Contact our charity law experts today

IBB Solicitors’ specialist Charities team has over 50 years’ combined experience in delivering practical commercial advice to charities and not for profit organisations and those who work with them. For advice please contact a member of the team on 01895 207862 or email charities@ibblaw.co.uk. Alternatively please visit: https://www.ibblaw.co.uk/service/charities.

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