Penny Appeal: March 2022

Name and type of organisation: Penny Appeal (registered charity no. 1128341)

Fundraising method: Text message fundraising

Code themes examined: Handling personal data

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

The complainant was receiving fundraising text messages from Penny Appeal (the charity), despite requesting to opt-out. The complainant then used the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS), but the charity continued to send fundraising text messages. 

What happened?

The complainant followed the instructions to opt-out from text messages, but despite several attempts, this was unsuccessful. The complainant then used the contact form on the charity’s website but did not receive a response. 

After these failed attempts, the complainant logged on to the FPS, to ask the charity to stop sending fundraising requests by all communication methods. When the charity failed to action this request, the complaint escalated their complaint to us.

The charity told us its investigation had found there can be a technical issue on some mobile phone networks and devices, which can stop the opt-out text message requests being sent. The charity also told us that it had no record of the complainant’s message through its website contact form. The charity put this down to a technical glitch.

The charity was also unaware of the FPS as the staff member who had set up its profile on the FPS charity portal had left the organisation. The charity had not handed over responsibility for actioning FPS notifications. We found that its FPS suppression requests had not been accessed since December 2019.

Our decision

We accepted that there may have been technical problems with the text message opt-out options and the charity’s website contact form, however the FPS notifications were working correctly. Our investigation therefore found that the charity had breached the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) because it failed to stop sending direct marketing to the complainant within a reasonable time period. It had also not taken reasonable steps to make sure its internal records were up to date. 

The charity told us it had a recent change in personnel and leadership, so would handle similar situations better in future. The charity also demonstrated a desire to update its processes and procedures and has registered several new users for the FPS.

The charity was co-operative throughout our investigation. However, we did find that the charity caused unnecessary delays to the process because it did not find out the full details of the complaint before responding. Its first two responses made no reference to the FPS, which showed a lack of complete understanding of the case, so we found the charity had breached the code with regards to complaints handling.


We recommended that charity makes sure that its own opt-out processes are regularly updated to meet the necessary requirements.

We recommended that the charity also take the learning from this investigation to improve its complaints handling.


The charity has accepted our findings and agreed to comply with our recommendations.