Mermaids: December 2020

Name and type of organisation: Mermaids (registered charity no. 1160575)

Fundraising method: Online

Code themes examined: Fundraising to children, pressure to donate and complaint handling

Code breach? No

The complaint 

The complainant told us that while an eight-year-old child was watching an age-appropriate video on YouTube, a fundraising video for Mermaids (the charity) appeared. The complainant said that the content of the video scared and confused the child. 

What happened?

The charity’s two-minute fundraising video called ‘Ethan’ told the story of a young person and the support they had received from the charity. The description displayed beneath the video was as follows:

“Donate to Mermaids: [a link to its Virgin Money Giving page] A short film produced […] for Mermaids. Starring 18yo Ethan who has found his voice; with support from Mermaids and his parents, he's more confident expressing his true self. Mermaids provides support for trans and gender variant children and young people, and their parents. For more information please visit us here: [a link to the charity’s website]”

As the complaint had not yet been put to the charity, we referred it to the charity to address the concerns. In response, the charity said that the video was not aimed at a particular audience or age group. The charity said that it regretted any confusion and upset the video may have caused to the eight-year-old child. It said that it hoped that the complainant could use the “context of this film to explain to the child concerned that a small number of children and young people experience a mismatch between their gender assigned at birth and their gender identity, and how important respect of someone’s identity is.” 

The complainant told us that they were dissatisfied with this response because they were worried that the video set a “worrying precedent for children to be targeted by a fundraiser, circumventing parental safeguards put in place to keep children free of this sort of manipulative pressure.”

Our decision

We saw no evidence to suggest that the charity deliberately targeted its fundraising attached to this video at children. In addition, we did not consider that in directing people to its generic Virgin Money Giving page, the charity attempted to solicit regular donations from those under 18. Therefore, we found that the charity had not breached the requirement in the code to take reasonable steps to avoid asking for regular donations from anyone aged under 18. 

We also saw no evidence that the charity attempted to place unreasonable pressure on the viewer to donate. Therefore, the charity had not breached the part of code which states that fundraising materials must not pressurise potential donors. 

Finally, the charity replied promptly to the complaint, attempting to address all the points made. Therefore, the charity had not breached the complaint handling section of the code.

Recommendations 

None. 

Outcome

There are no actions for the charity.