An editorial by Andrew Cates, CEO of SOS Children UK
Writing in the Daily Telegraph last Saturday I gave a blunt view of the charitable sector and charity junk Mail:
"Beware charities that speak a lot about a problem but not a lot about what they do".
"In my view (..responding to charity direct mail..) is a bit like giving money to an alcoholic tramp outside an off-licence. "No" seems mean but it is for the best. As long as people respond to junk mail, television adverts or street sign ups some charities will spend the whole of your first year's Direct Debit to sign you up"..
The Fundraising Standards Board, is sometimes viewed by the pessimistic amongst us as a cynical ploy to defend unacceptable Direct Mail practices by some of the biggest (and worst offending) UK charities. Apparently it receives over 25000 complaints a year and rarely thinks there is a problem. But today it actually went public and declared it had found 16 charities guilty of breaching its (extremely weak) rules with 22 Direct Mail packs. The charities had induced guilt and use over-emotional language, and failed to say for what the donations will be used. No surprises there, we all know what happens. But now Alistair McLean, CEO of the FRSB has stood up to be counted.
And in response what have the sixteen charities done? According to "Third Sector", four, only four, said they would co-operate to improve. One has openly said it breaks the rules and will not change. The rest have hidden behind watered down and subjective rules, diluted by the big bad mailers who are behind the Fundraising Standards Board.
When is enough enough? When can we look forward to some strong regulation of the charitable sector about which we cannot be proud. Will a government ever stand ground against household names when they misbehave? And when will a government actually care enough about the environment and personal privacy to make Direct Mail in the UK "opt in only" which seems to be the direction people are heading on the continent.
The charitable sector in the UK should be something to be proud of. We achieve so much for children abroad and in the UK. There are many many caring well motivated well meaning people who work tireless to do this. Why should we all be brought into disgrace by fundraising practices we all know are wrong?