Name and type of organisation: Gables Farm Dogs and Cats Home (registered charity no. 1127194)
Fundraising method: Online fundraising appeal
Code themes examined: Fundraiser behaviour (negative); misleading information
Code breach? Yes
The complainant raised concerns about the inaccuracy of the charity’s fundraising appeal as they believed it publicly shamed them for rehoming their cat. They also believed the charity had breached their data privacy.
The complainant said that the charity’s description of their cat in its fundraising appeal was exaggerated and the reason for rehoming was not accurate. This resulted in negative social media comments about the complainant. The complainant also said the charity had breached their confidentiality because even with the change of name, the cat was still recognisable, as it had a distinctive appearance.
The charity explained that it had changed the name of the cat to protect the complainant’s identity and the reasons for rehoming the cat were those given at the time they first made contact. The charity also said that it had advised the complainant before the social media appeal to not respond to comments. The charity said it hid some of the potentially hurtful comments from public view.
We did not make findings about the breach of confidentiality and data privacy as it did not appear to us that the information in the fundraising material about the cat and the complainant’s personal circumstances qualified as personal data.
Although the language used by the charity about the reasons the cat was given up differed from that used by the complainant, we did not find this was misleading.
We accepted details of the condition of the cat in the appeal were necessary to raise funds for its care, even though it caused distress for the complainant by implying they may have been neglectful. However, the distinctive appearance of the cat along with the mention of the complainant’s personal circumstances in the campaign made the complainant fear being identified. Although the charity warned about potential upsetting comments and hid some comments, this did not prevent considerable distress. We found the fear and distress likely to be caused by the fundraising campaign was excessive and therefore the charity had breached the code.
The charity responded promptly and in detail to the complaint. However, the charity did not amend the campaign to reduce the risk of further distress. The charity appeared to give more weight to the success of the campaign than the concerns raised in the complaint. We found the charity to be in breach of the code as the charity had not always been fair and proportionate in its consideration of the complaint.
The charity should review its positioning of campaigns for individual animals where the previous owner is known to the charity.
The charity should explore the possibility of establishing an arrangement with a third party to review complaints, where necessary, to ensure the review is independent. This is to ensure it is fair and proportionate in its complaint handling.
We asked that the charity write to us within two months of our decision to outline the action taken in response to our findings and recommendations.