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LifeSpring Ministries: September 2020

Name and type of organisation: LifeSpring Ministries (registered charity no. 1122435)

Fundraising method and theme: Corporate and events

Code themes examined: Fundraising communications and complaint handling

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

The complainant’s church donated £4,000 to a fundraising campaign set up by LifeSpring Ministries (the charity). The campaign was for an ‘Evangelistic Event’ due to take place in India in July 2018. The appeal was described as ‘urgent’. The event was postponed on four occasions and has yet to take place. The complainant believed the timescale for holding the event had now expired and requested a refund of the donation. The charity declined the request for a refund, as it believes the event will still happen, however made a ‘Without Prejudice’ £4,000 repayment offer to the complainant.

What happened?

The complainant attended a meeting at LifeSpring Ministries in February 2018 during which the event was discussed. The complainant then made an initial donation of £1,000 on behalf of his church. In response to additional urgent requests for funds from the charity, the complainant’s church made another donation of £1,000 in April 2018, with a further £2,000 being donated in October 2018, bringing the total to £4,000.

In November 2019 the complainant contacted the charity and asked for a refund of the £4,000 donation as the event had not taken place. The trustees of the charity declined the request. After taking legal advice the charity made a ‘Without Prejudice’ offer to repay the £4,000 in four instalments, over four months. The complainant declined this offer and brought the complaint to us.

Our decision

A refund of a charitable donation can only be considered under certain circumstances and the Fundraising Regulator does not have powers to instruct a charity to return a donation. Our findings therefore focus on potential breaches of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code). We found no breach of the code regarding the way the charity used the funds it raised and we were satisfied the charity still intended for the event to go ahead.

However, we found the charity had breached the code by failing to explain the risks of donating funds to an event such as this, such as the risk of a postponement. The charity should have outlined the risks regardless of whether or not it felt those donating would have an understanding of the risks inherent in this type of event. We also found the charity had not explained what would happen to the funds if the required amount was not raised, or if the target was exceeded. Additionally, we found the charity did not have a complaints policy in place at the time the complaint was submitted, which is a further breach.

Recommendations

We recommended the charity ensure that any future fundraising campaigns are fully compliant with the code, so that donors are not misled, and that fundraising materials make donors aware of any potential risks. We also recommended the charity ensure it includes a statement to confirm what will happen to donations if a fundraising target is either not met or exceeded. We noted the charity now has a complaints policy and we recommend the charity continues to update this, where necessary.

Outcome

We asked the charity to write to us within two months of our final report to update us on the actions taken in response to our final decision.