A decision following an investigation into International Liberty Association (ILA) has been published today.
ILA is a registered charity set up to promote respect for human rights in the Middle East, and also to assist the victims of such abuses.
We've taken the decision to name the charity because of the seriousness of the concerns identified,and to highlight the steps being taken by the charity to address those concerns. It's important to highlight the potential risk that the charity's fundraising approach posed to the public, and the need for effective trustee oversight and control of volunteers when charities of all sizes fundraise.
The investigation was opened after many similar complaints were received. The complaints focused on visits from volunteers to members of the public at their homes, asking for donations. The complaints all stated that the volunteers, who operate in pairs, placed a large amount of undue pressure on the people they visited. They asked for large amounts of money (up to £11,000) and in some cases suggested that the person take out a loan if the donation was not affordable.
We concluded that ILA’s fundraising is a high risk to donors and the organisation itself, because it lacks proper oversight.
Findings have been made in relation to five sections of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code).
It's important to note that ILA's fundraising model doesn't involve professional fundraisers and/or external third-party agencies. This means that the trustees are the only link between the fundraisers and the standards they should follow. We also found that the trustees lacked awareness of the standards, and failed to effectively oversee the fundraising being done by volunteers on behalf of the charity.
We understand that the charity’s cause is highly emotive and holds personal significance for a lot of the volunteers. This, and the fact that the fundraising method often involved private face-to-face meetings with individuals in their own homes, opens the charity and the public to an unacceptable level of risk.
A key concern is that the charity's trustees were aware of potential problems with some of the volunteers and hadn't taken steps to resolve them.
As part of the investigation we took evidence from ILA, including copies of their training materials, their policy on dealing with vulnerable individuals, and their complaints procedure. We also took copies of the documents used when recruiting volunteers, and the documents used by volunteers when meeting with supporters. We met with two of the charity’s trustees to discuss their fundraising practices and the complaints that were received.
Before publishing the findings, a draft decision was shared with the charity so they could comment on factual accuracy.
We'll be asking ILA to provide evidence to show that they've taken appropriate action in response to the findings. We'll also be monitoring the compliance of the charity with the recommendations we've made. ILA has accepted our recommendations.
Gerald Oppenheim, Chief Executive said:
“The fundraising practices of ILA clearly contravene the Code of Fundraising Practice and represent a risk to donors as well as the organisation itself. We were particularly concerned about the methods used by fundraisers and lack of oversight from trustees.
This decision includes clear recommendations to ensure that improvements are made in order to mitigate the risk to the public and the charity. We will be reviewing ILA’s compliance to ensure that their fundraising practices improve.”