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East London Textiles, Leukaemia Care and Bliss: September 2019

Name and type of organisation/s: East London Textiles, an agency; Leukaemia Care, a cancer charity; and Bliss, a health charity 

Fundraising method: charity bags

Code themes examined: the delivery of a charity bag to a ‘restricted address’, complaint handling, third party organisations.

Code breach?

  • East London Textiles: Yes
  • Leukaemia Care: Yes
  • Bliss: Yes

The complaint 

The complainant said that they had contacted East London Textiles (ELT – the agency) many times to ask it to stop delivering charity bags. They also have a ‘no charity bag’ sticker on their letterbox. Despite this, the complainant continued to receive charity bags from ELT, initially on behalf of Leukaemia Care, and most recently on behalf of Bliss.

What happened?

Despite the complainant displaying a ‘no charity bags’ sticker, they received a number of charity bags. The complainant contacted ELT after the first delivery so that their address could be placed on its ‘no posting list’. However, despite these measures, the agency delivered unwanted charity bags to the complainant six times.  Five of the charity bag deliveries were on behalf of Leukaemia Care. The final charity bag was delivered on behalf of Bliss. The agency said that it placed the complainant’s address on the ‘no posting list’ on each of the first four occasions. It placed the complainant’s street on the ’no posting list’ on the fifth occasion. On the sixth occasion, the agency excluded an area around the complainant’s address. 

Our decision

In continuing to deliver charity bags to the complainant, we found that the agency breached the key principles and behaviours section of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) by being unreasonably persistent. 

We also found that the agency breached the complaint handling section of the code because it collected inadequate information about the complainant’s early complaints and failed to investigate all the complaints, nor could we see it responded to the final complaint. 

The agency told us that staff turnover was a problem. We had further concerns that if the distributors were new in post it is not clear that the agency’s improved staff training would result in adherence to the ‘no posting list’  and ‘no charity bags’ signs. The agency also appear to subcontract the distribution of charity bags to a third party. It was therefore not clear how much the agency can influence staff retention. 

We had some remaining concerns about the agency’s system for ensuring bags are not delivered to ‘no posting list’ addresses on the distributor’s maps. We found that the agency had not demonstrated that it had learnt from the complaints received. Therefore, it breached the code in this area. 

We reviewed the contract that both charities have with the agency and found no reference to the requirement on the agency to adhere to the code. However, in Leukaemia Care’s case, we could see that it had other documentation in place which outlined this requirement. We therefore found that Leukaemia Care had not breached this area of the code, but Bliss had. Despite some efforts being made by both Leukaemia Care and Bliss, to monitor the agency’s compliance with the code, in practice this was not sufficient. So both charities breached the code in relation to working with third parties. 

We found that Leukaemia Care showed that it had reviewed the learning from the complaint, and had therefore not breached the code in this area.  Leukaemia Care has now terminated its contract with ELT and confirmed that it will no longer be fundraising from charity bag collections.

Recommendations

We recommended that East London Textiles: 

  • reviews the effectiveness of its new staff training; 
  • reviews its system for recording and communicating addresses on its ‘no posting list;’ 
  • considers what further action it can take to prevent charity bags being delivered to households with ‘no charity bags’ or similar signs; 
  • considers what steps it can take to reduce its high turnover of staff; and
  • reviews the learning from each of the complainant’s complaints, alongside its Complaints Policy, to consider where it needs to make improvements. 

We recommended that Leukaemia Care:

  • reviews its contracts with any other third party fundraising organisations; and
  • reviews the training that new and existing staff receive with any other third party fundraising organisations that the charity works with.

We recommended that Bliss:

  • updates the contract with its agency to ensure that the contractual arrangements provide specifically for adherence to the code and adequate oversight arrangements;
  • reviews the quality monitoring measures currently in place to check the work that the agency does on its behalf;
  • reviews how it handles charity bag complaints.

Outcome

We asked that ELT, Leukaemia Care and Bliss each write to us within two months of our final decision to outline the action taken in response to our findings and recommendations.