Dealing with complaints more effectively

No one likes negative feedback, but complaints matter to organisations hoping to maintain support from the public. We received over 1,500 complaints about fundraising done by charities between April 2017 and August 2018.

Whether you deal with complaints at your organisation, are concerned about the complaints you’re receiving, or simply want to learn more - take a look at the Complaints report 2017/18.

Why complaints matter

Complaints about fundraising should be seen as valuable feedback, which can help organisations to grow. The fundraising code expects organisations to:

  • investigate complaints thoroughly and objectively to establish the facts
  • avoid unnecessary delay when investigating complaints
  • respond to complaints in a fair, proportionate and appropriate way

Some charities breach the code because they don’t have an effective complaints process, something that our guidance can help with.

Keeping track of complaints is also a legal requirement. The Charities Act 2016 asks charities to provide detail about how many fundraising complaints they’ve received, in their annual report to the Charity Commission.

And it goes without saying that, the better you are at handling complaints, the easier it can be to maintain your organisation’s reputation. This will go a long way in helping you get regular support from the public.

The report

The complaints report looks at the complaints we’ve received about fundraising, and the complaints that charities have received directly. It highlights key themes and includes case summaries, to help you understand how you can better deal with the complaints you get, and how to prevent escalation to our complaints team.

Complaints we received

Some of the key themes from the complaints we received include:

  • Misleading information – we upheld over 25 breaches of the Code across 18 investigations, making this a significant topic for complaint. Charities need to handle all information, data and imagery carefully when they fundraise.
  • Managing supporter data – an issue that came up many times when we handled complaints. Charities need to do more to make sure they remove people from their databases, when asked to do so.
  • Monitoring third parties - companies working on behalf of charities were also the subject of complaints. Charities need good systems in place to manage and monitor third parties.

Complaints the sector received

To get a better idea of how many complaints the sector is receiving, we also looked at data on complaints received by the 58 charities who spent the most on fundraising. In total, they received 21,851 complaints from the public about fundraising, with door-to-door fundraising and addressed mail complained about the most.

We’ve now started to collect data about fundraising complaints from the same organisations for the 2018/19 report.

Lessons to be learned

There are lots of important lessons to be learned from the report, whether you’re a large, medium or small organisation. Charities of all sizes receive complaints, and none are immune. If you have the right process in place, dealing with complaints doesn’t have to be tricky.