Diabetes UK breached Code of Fundraising Practice

Diabetes UK’s pedometer fundraising campaign breached the Code of Fundraising Practice, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has judged.

| 13th Nov 15

Diabetes UK’s pedometer fundraising campaign breached the Code of Fundraising Practice, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has judged.

In the adjudication report published today (Friday), the FRSB’s board ruled that the charity’s campaign had breached four clauses of the Institute of Fundraising’s (IoF’s) Code of Fundraising Practice.

The board upheld the complainant’s claim that she was misled as to how her contact details would be used by the charity and that she should have been given the opportunity to opt out of future fundraising and marketing approaches when contacted by text.

The complainant had raised concerns about a telephone fundraising call she received from Diabetes UK after responding by text to the charity’s advertisement for a free pedometer and diabetes guide.


No option to opt out

She received a text confirming her request for a pedometer from the charity, which did not include any opportunity to opt in or out of future SMS messages or fundraising/marketing approaches, as is required.

A fundraiser from the telephone fundraising agency Listen Ltd then contacted the complainant on behalf of the charity to arrange delivery of the pedometer and to ask for a regular donation of £10 a month.

The complainant objected to the call, considering it ‘deceiving’ of the charity to use her contact details in this way and that the public should be made aware that they may receive fundraising calls if they respond to the offer of a free pedometer.

She also felt that the fundraiser who made the call had put her under pressure to donate and had been patronising when she stated she couldn’t afford to give because she was out of work due to ill health.


Board rulings

The FRSB Board ruled that the Diabetes UK campaign had breached the following clauses of the IoF Code:

  • Data Protection, Processing, (clause L14.7c): “Donors/contacts MUST NOT be misled or deceived as to how their information will be used and how the organisation may contact them in future.”
  • Digital Media, SMS and MMS, (clause 9.6.2 (f): “Reply by SMS OUGHT to be an option for opting out and be clear in all communications.”
  • Data Protection, Consent, (clause L14.5.2 (a) (i):Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully.”
  • The Telephone Preference Service, Marketing Calls, (clause 8.2.3 c): “Marketing calls under the guise of administrative calls ought not to be made but supporters’ marketing preferences can be verified during a genuine administrative call.”

While responsibility for the Code breaches sits with the charity, Diabetes UK, as the telephone call was delivered by Listen Ltd, the agency is also deemed to have breached clause 8.2.3 c. of the Code.

The FRSB Board ruled that the call had not breached:

  • General Principles, Requesting Donations, (Code clause 1.3.1b): “Fundraisers ought not to pressurise donors or potential donors but may use reasonable persuasion.”


Actions moving forward

The FRSB expects Diabetes UK to take the following actions, with immediate effect:

  • Include clear and conspicuous opportunities for respondents to opt out of any future contact from the charity in respect of any future campaigns it initiates;
  • Issue an apology to the complainant for misleading her;
  • Check all telephone numbers selected for telemarketing against the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) register for all future campaigns.


Charity ‘misled the public’

Andrew Hind, Chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, said: “Diabetes UK’s pedometer campaign was not solely designed to assist the public by raising awareness of diabetes. 

It also had a clear motive to solicit contact details for a subsequent fundraising approach to those who responded.  As a result, we have concluded that the charity’s campaign misled the public.

Hind said that although many campaigns offer resources to the public to support their objectives it’s vital that charities make it clear to people how their contact details could be used and that relevant permissions are obtained.

He added: “We recognise the difficulty facing charities in raising valuable funds and keeping costs low, but legal requirements for text communications and any other campaigns must always be met.”