FRSB recommends stricter Code of Conduct following investigation

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has recommended changes to regulations relating to telephone fundraising, following an investigation into GoGen, the agency at the centre of an undercover investigation by the Daily Mail.

GoGen, which ceased trading weeks after the newspaper published its story, was found by the FRSB to have breached the Code of Fundraising Practice clause prohibiting exploitation of vulnerable people.

The official investigation by the regulator found that the clause was breached when one fundraiser advised another to secure a donation from a potentially vulnerable individual.

Go-Gen, which has since ceased trading, used pressurising techniques during fundraiser training sessions. It also failed to make it clear that the purpose of the telephone calls was to seek financial support.

British Red Cross, Macmillan, NSPCC, and Oxfam were all named in the Daily Mail’s investigations as using Go-Gen’s services. The FRSB ruled that the charities had monitoring procedures in place, but they failed to adequately monitor GoGen’s delivery of their telephone fundraising campaigns.

According to the FRSB, Macmillan and the British Red Cross also breached industry guidelines because they did clearly explain to supporters how their contact data may be used in future.

As a result of the investigation, the FRSB has recommended that the code should be amended, requiring a solicitation statement to be made before a prospective supporter provides their bank details, so that individuals can make a fully informed decision before they go ahead with their donation.

Further recommendations included the development of a standardised best practice benchmark for charities’ monitoring of telephone fundraising agencies as well as the introduction of a new written agreements code between charities and agencies, covering how conduct is monitored.

The FRSB has said all four charities involved in the investigation have implemented significant changes since last summer. Changes include closer monitoring of third parties to ensure compliance with the code, increased spot checks, mystery shopping, and listening in to more calls.

FRSB chief executive Andrew Hind said: “While this investigation outlines a number of failings at the agency, ultimate responsibility always rests with charities for the conduct of any third-party agencies representing them.

“We welcome the significant actions that each charity has since undertaken to ensure closer working with any agencies they work with in the future, including better monitoring and supervision procedures.”