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The Salvation Army: December 2019

Name and type of organisation: The Salvation Army (registered charity no. 214779) a Christian church and charity

Fundraising method: Direct marketing via email

Code themes examined: supporter data, fundraising communications and techniques

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

The complainant contacted The Salvation Army (the charity) on 7 May 2019 to change their contact preferences because they were concerned about the frequency of its requests for donations. They requested to only receive the charity’s Christmas and Easter appeals. Despite this, they received further emails from the charity. In response, the complainant cancelled their standing order with the charity and on 27 July 2019 requested that it stop contacting them entirely. However, the charity sent them a further email after this date.

What happened?

The Salvation Army updated the complainant’s postal contact preferences in May 2019 but failed to update their email contact preferences. When the complainant contacted the charity for a second time and asked it to stop contacting them entirely, the charity immediately updated its records. However, it was too late to stop a further appeal email being sent to the complainant a week later, as the email mailing list had already been made.

Our decision

We found that The Salvation Army failed to appropriately update its records with the complainant’s change of communication preferences until they brought their complaint to the charity for a second time. This delay caused the complainant to receive three further unwanted fundraising emails from the charity. Based on this, The Salvation Army was in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) as it failed to properly manage the complainant’s data.

We also found that the charity failed to investigate and appropriately respond to the complaint, in breach of the code.

Recommendations

In response to our draft decision, the charity advised us that it had undertaken the following:

  • Reviewed its procedure for dealing with complaints, and updated its process document to emphasise that where a donor's record indicates a multi-channel approach, written confirmation should be obtained from the donor as to their preferences for all communication channels.
  • Complaints from donors that mention us will be escalated to a manager for review. The manager will establish if the donor is in a pending communication file, and if so either remove the donor's entry before it is sent out or make the donor aware that they may receive a further communication before the new preference can take effect.
  • Retrained all its donor care and services teams on the above.

We therefore made no further recommendations.

Outcome

We were encouraged to see how proactive the charity was in acting on the learning from this complaint in order to ensure its future compliance with the code.