Monday, 10 June 2013

“The most truthful part of a newspaper is the advertisements.” Thomas Jefferson

And in this case it’s certainly not the headlines.

“Complaints about doorstep fundraising 'nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012'”

This is the headline in Third Sector today after the launch of the 2013 FRSB Complaints report

If you were reading this, what would you think? Complaints are rising. The public is more unhappy. All those people saying that Door to Door fundraising should be outlawed are right.

How many of you will download the report, read it for yourself, and find out whether this really is the case? After all, you’ve seen the headlines. It must be true.

Actually, the report paints a different picture. So, please do read it.

And I’ll caveat any comments now: I’m not saying that any complaint should be brushed aside and ignored. I’d never think that. But I would like some objectivity when reporting facts.

Yes, door to door fundraising complaints have doubled in two years. So, has the volume of activity.  Search as hard as you like. You won’t find that fact reported in the Third Sector article.

The average complaint rate is 0.0006 for door to door fundraising. According to the report that’s a lower average rate than telephone fundraising and street face to face fundraising.

But it’s also lower than the average complaint rate for outdoor events, corporate fundraising, volunteer led fundraising, cash collections, and the same as major donor fundraising. Who’d have thought it?

However, if I report the facts then you’d see that, in reality, one corporate fundraising event led to 73% of the total complaints. I think I’ll leave that out though. It doesn’t support the message I’m trying to deliver….

Meanwhile, buried halfway down the article is the fact that direct mail received the most complaints. Over twice the amount received by door to door fundraising. Where’s the outrage? 

Oh, silly me. That seems to be reserved for direct dialogue fundraising.

But look! It’s not all bad! Street fundraising complaints fell by 28%. But that’s ok – the volume of solicitations fell as well. Why is the decrease in volume reported here but not the growth in door to door?

I have a theory. Maybe it doesn’t suit the journalistic purpose. After all, is it really “aggressive fundraising if complaints are falling?

I also have a suggestion. Let’s celebrate the fact that whilst fundraising volume grew by 38%, complaints only increased by 9%.

And that 68% of the 1,490 charities signed up to the FRSB reported no complaints at all.

And that only three complaints went all the way to stage 3 adjudications.

I am well aware that this report only reflects people that can be bothered to complain, and there are many more who don’t take this step. However there are also millions of people who support charities every day. Who start supporting because of any of the methods in the report. And who write letters that say things like this:

“As I write this letter I only wish it could be more…It comes from my heart but I know that you will put the money to good use. I look at the money box every day and say a little prayer… Please could you send me a new box as this one is a bit battered so I can give you a bit more? Thank you.”

Let’s celebrate fundraising, report the full facts and not bend them to suit our reporting agenda. And please, read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Thank you.
Danielle Atkinson


  1. Excellent post with a great analysis on the stats! It's strange and frustrating that door-to-door is being focussed on here. While it needs to be covered and we need to improve door there are other issues.

    Most notably, unaddressed mail is not even mentioned in any reports covering this, but complaints increased nearly 60% even though the volume DECREASED. Now that's really concerning. And arguably more charities who aren't members of the FRSB use this method than use door.

    But, I don't know if it is Third Sector that are the problem here. If you look at FRSB's own press release they are the ones that focus on door-to-door. The FRSB's first highlighted area of concern is door-to-door fundraising where they point out that complaints increased by 93%. No mention of volume. In fact on Twitter they said year-on-year volume comparison isn't possible.

    Great post. I was going to do a post at but you beat me to it here :-)

  2. Sorry, I also meant to say I'd love to see some analysis of how much each of these methods actually raises. i.e. how many Euro/pounds are raised for every complaint for each method. Then we'd really see door-to-door shine.

  3. Historically, the big Direct Mail agencies gave loads of sponsorship to Third Sector, through adverts in the magazine and sponsoring the awards. As such they get an easy time with Third Sector. The F2F agencies however don't need Third Sector as demand outstrips supply so they are fair game for Stephen and his gang of reporters.

  4. Like your thinking and thanks for sharing. Let's also not forget that the odd complaint might actually be a good thing in terms of helping us get better at what we do...

    Here's a previous blog on the subject...