Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Oakengates: March 2021

Name and type of organisation: Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Oakengates (registered charity no. 1045088)

Fundraising method: Face-to-face fundraising

Code themes examined: Restricted funds and complaint handling

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

The complainant told us that Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Oakengates (the charity), had undertaken a fundraising campaign to raise money for Rumallas (holy cloth) but believed that the money had not been used for that purpose. 

What happened?

The charity’s fundraiser told donors that money was being raised for Rumallas. However, the complainant understood that charity had subsequently decided that the money raised would be spent on costs to employ a Granthis (a priest). 

When the complainant contacted the charity about their concerns, the charity responded to the complaint, addressing each of the points raised. The charity ended its email by confirming that this was its full and final response and suggested that if the complainant had any additional points, they have a meeting to discuss them. The letter ended by stating that “Persistent written complaints take precious hours of energy and effort – both would be better spent trying to serve the community.” The complainant was dissatisfied with this response and brought their complaint to us. 

The charity’s receipts confirm that it purchased Rumallas from India which cost 213,620 Rupees in total. The charity said that multiple sets of Rumallas were purchased over a period of time, and each time the currency conversation rate would have been different. 

The charity’s receipts for the donations it received totalled £2,876. ‘Rumallas’ was listed on receipts totalling £833 and no purpose was stated on the remainder. The charity explained that some donors donated specifically for the purchase of the Rumallas and some gave an “open” donation for the charity to use where it was needed. Although some receipts specify that the donations were for the purchase of Rumallas, the charity knew of at least one additional donation was made specifically for the purchase of Rumallas, but this was not written on the receipt.

The charity said that any money that was not needed for the purchase of the Rumallas was to be spent as required for the upkeep of the charity. It said that at the time the fundraising took place, a running total of the donations received was kept so it could stop fundraising when enough money was raised for the Rumallas. However, this log was not retained by the charity, so it did not know how much money was spent on the Rumallas and how much was leftover and put into the charity’s general funds.

The charity had a four stage complaints process which explained how someone can raise a complaint about a matter that brings the Gurdwara and Sikhism into disrepute. It did not have direct reference to fundraising or the Fundraising Regulator. It stated that members of the charity should not take disputes to the Charity Commission for England and Wales. 

Our decision

We saw evidence that the charity purchased the Rumallas as intended. However, the charity did not know how much money was spent on the Rumallas, and how much money was put into the charity’s general funds. Therefore, we could not establish the total cost of the Rumallas.

As the charity knew of at least one additional instance where the donation was for the purchase of Rumallas, but this was not written this on the receipt, we could not establish an accurate figure of the amount of restricted donations received for purchasing Rumallas. Therefore, we could not be sure whether all donors who made donations for purchasing Rumallas had their donations spent on this. 

Due to a combination of the charity’s lack of, and inaccurate, record keeping, we did not have enough evidence to decide if the charity breached two sections of the code which related to the use of restricted donations. However, we found that the charity had breached the section of the code regarding record keeping of donations made for specific purposes. 

Following the charity’s final response to the complainant, along with the fact that the charity’s complaints policy did not explain how a fundraising concern could be escalated, we found that it had breached the complaint handling section of the code. 

Recommendations 

We recommended that:

  • the charity applied a system for recording and retaining records of future donations it receives, including any restrictions or conditions required by the donor or the charity. Alongside this, we recommended that the charity ensured that any receipts issued for donations accurately list the restrictions or conditions that apply to the donation. 
  • when the charity spends donations in another currency to the one they were collected in, it retains records of the relevant conversion rate applicable at the time, in order to keep accurate information regarding how the charity spends its funds. 
  • the charity updated its complaints policy to include details of where complainants can escalate their complaints outside of the charity, including our details and those of the Charity Commission for England and Wales. 
  • the charity reviewed the learning from this complaint and what action it needs to take to improve its complaint handling. When undertaking this review, we recommended that the charity read our complaints handling guidance.
  • the charity provided the complainant with a written apology for its breaches of the code.

Outcome

The charity 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.