Breast Cancer Research Aid and Giving Support Ltd: December 2020

Name and type of organisation/s: Breast Cancer Research Aid (BCRA – registered charity number – 116674) and Giving Support Ltd, an agency

Fundraising method: Charity bags

Code themes examined: Charity bags, complaints handling and third-party monitoring

Code breach?  

  • BCRA: Yes     
  • Giving Support Ltd: Yes

The complaint 

The complainant said that Giving Support Ltd (the agency) delivered a charity bag on Breast Cancer Research Aid’s (BCRA – the charity’s) behalf, despite them having a sign on their door which stated ‘addressed mail only.’ 

What happened?

The complainant emailed the charity to complain that a charity bag had been delivered to their address. The charity sent the complaint on to its agency, without sending an acknowledgment to the complainant. The agency responded to the complaint very quickly after it had been received and apologised for ignoring the complainant’s sign. The agency said it would contact the distributor concerned and add the complainant’s address to its database to prevent further charity bag deliveries. However, the complainant was unhappy with the agency’s response and asked us to investigate. 

The charity told us that its agreement with the agency states that the agency will investigate complaints about charity bags on the charity’s behalf. Although the agency initially told us that its manager had responded to the complaint and apologised for delivering the charity bag, it then asked us to contact the complainant to request evidence that a charity bag had been delivered by them. Due to the time that had elapsed, the bag had been disposed of, so the agency then suggested that the charity bag may have been posted by someone else. The agency later said that its distributors were not actually working in the complainant’s area on the day the charity bag was delivered.

The agency then told us the initial response to the complaint was only an acknowledgement, sent by an ‘email handling assistant’. The agency said that the complainant should contact it directly, so it could investigate the complaint. It said that it had not had any direct contact from the complainant, only via the regulator.

Our decision

Based on the available evidence, we were unable to conclude that the agency delivered the charity bag in question. Therefore, we were unable to reach a finding about whether the agency breached the requirements of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) not to deliver to households with a ‘no charity bag’ sign, or words that indicate that the householder does not wish to donate by this method. 

We found the agency had initially responded to the complaint after just 22 minutes, without asking for any supporting evidence. The agency only requested supporting evidence after we became involved, at which point the evidence had been disposed of. We therefore found the agency had breached the section of the code that relates to investigating and handling complaints. 

When making their compliant to us, the complainant expressed concern that the charity may refer the complaint on to the agency rather than handling it internally – and this was in fact what happened. The charity should have acknowledged the complainant’s concerns before passing the complaint to its agency, so we found the charity had also breached the section of the code that relates to handling and investigating complaints.

In addition, we found the charity had not ensured that the agency was aware of the code, or that it had sufficient measures in place to monitor the agency’s work to ensure its compliance with the code. Therefore, we found that the charity had breached the code in these areas. 

Recommendations

We recommended that the charity:

  • review its complaints policy and its complaints process.
  • monitor the agency to ensure its compliance with the code.

We recommend that the agency:

  • review its complaints policy and its complaints process.
  • review its staff training in relation to the code. 

Outcome

The charity and agency accepted our recommendations. We asked that the charity write to us within two months of our final decision to outline the action taken in response to our findings and recommendations.