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Crawley Open House: September 2020

Name and type of organisation: Crawley Open House (registered charity no: 1048919)

Fundraising method: Events

Code themes examined: Support provided to volunteer fundraisers and complaints handling

Code breach? No

The complaint

The complainant told us that when they organised two fundraising events for Crawley Open House (the charity), it did not provide them with the appropriate support and guidance. The complainant said that the charity did not make them aware that when running a charity bingo event they needed to apply to the local authority for a licence. The complainant raised their concerns with the charity but remained dissatisfied with its response.

What happened?

The complainant had a long-standing relationship with the charity as a service user and approached it about running a fundraising bingo event in its name. The charity agreed to this but had no written agreement with the complainant. In April 2018 the charity provided the complainant with a volunteer to assist them with organising the event and later provided the complainant with a letter of authority to use when collecting prizes for the event.

In August 2018 the volunteer appointed by the charity stepped down from their role and the charity withdrew its consent for the event to proceed until another volunteer could be appointed. On 26 August 2018, the charity asked the complainant to delay the event, however, the complainant held the event without the charity’s knowledge.

On 1 March 2019 the complainant and charity met to discuss holding a new event in its name. However, the charity did not consent to the event being held. On 22 March 2019, the complainant ran a second event without the charity’s knowledge.

The complainant raised £250 from both events and donated this to a different charity. The charity was made aware that the complainant had proceeded with both events in its name and arranged to meet the complainant on 24 May 2019.

On 1 August 2019 the complainant complained to the charity’s Chair of Trustees because they claimed the charity had called them a ‘fraudster’ during their meeting. The complainant also said that they had not received appropriate support when organising the event.

On 10 October 2019 the Chair of Trustees replied, apologising for the delay in responding as they had been out of the country. The Chair of Trustees also apologised for any distress caused and said that the charity had not considered them to be a fundraiser.

Our decision

Due to the lack of a written fundraising agreement between the two parties, it was difficult for us to comment on exactly what information was provided to the complainant regarding the potential need for a licence to sell tickets for the events. Therefore, although we have no reason to doubt the account provided by either party, we were unable to comment on this aspect of the complaint.

Although there was no written agreement in place, the charity issued the complainant with a letter of authority which acknowledges that the complainant was fundraising on its behalf.

The code does not stipulate that charities must have written agreements with ‘on behalf of’ fundraisers, however having a written agreement is beneficial as it enables a charity to set out what it expects of them and prevents any potential confusion.

Given the complainant’s pre-existing relationship with the charity as a service user and in providing the complainant with a volunteer to assist with the event, we found that the charity had given appropriate support for running the event. Therefore, the charity did not breach two sections of the code which relate to providing appropriate support to volunteers.

We found that the charity made some mistakes in the way it handled the complaint. The charity should have advised the complainant that there would be a delay in its response. However, we did not find that the charity breached the complaint handling section of the code.

Recommendations

We made recommendations for the charity despite not having found a breach of the code, including:

  • if the charity decides to undertake similar fundraising activities in the future, it should consider defining who it regards to be ‘on behalf of’ and ‘in aid of’ of fundraisers, and produce a template written agreement for such arrangements; and
  • it should review the learning from this complaint to improve its complaint handling in the future.

Outcome

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