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Village Hall: December 2019

Name and type of organisation: Village Hall (registered charity no. 520933) a local community charity

Fundraising method: online and face-to-face

Code themes examined: pressurised fundraising and use of restricted funds

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

We received two complaints about the Village Hall (the charity). The complainants said that the charity told parents from the local school that if they did not donate to its car park fund, they would not be able to use it. The complainants said that the charity pressured parents into making donations and that members of the charity publicly named those parents who had not donated. The complainants told us that the charity said that their donations would be used for the upkeep of the car park. However, the money had been used for other things.

What happened?

The complainants told us that for one week each school term, a former member of the charity would stand in the car park and ask for donations. They said this individual also used Facebook to ask for donations, making comments such as “it’s the same people paying all the time and the same not paying” and tagging parents in these posts.

The charity said that it does not mandate a donation to use the car park. It also told us that although the money raised from car park donations had not been recorded as restricted for car park maintenance, no money raised for that particular cause had been spent on anything else.

The charity said that at the time of the complaint it did not have published fundraising standards, a complaints process or a policy on trustees using their personal Facebook accounts for charity business. The charity confirmed that the committee in place at the time of the complaint has now stood down and has been fully replaced.

Our decision

Although the charity said that the car park was open to all parents and it did not mandate donations, the Facebook posts made by the former charity member suggested otherwise. We also found that parents who had been tagged in posts requesting donations may have felt under pressure to donate. On this basis, we found the charity had breached the code by being unreasonably persistent and placing undue pressure on donors.

By making statements such as “it’s the same people paying all the time and the same not paying” some parents may have felt they were being criticised for not donating. On this basis, we found that the former charity member, acting as the charity’s representative, had breached the section of the code that relates to not criticising others.

We found that the charity had not used the money donated for the car park maintenance for any other purpose and could account for all the money donated. For these reasons, we found that it had not breached three sections of the code that relate to how donations are used and recorded.

Finally, we found that the charity did not have a publicly available complaints policy, so was in breach of the code.

Recommendations

  • In response to our draft decision, the charity told us that “all new trustees are aware of their responsibilities under the code as well as wider charity commission guidance”. We were pleased to hear this and therefore made no recommendation in relation to the charity’s trustees.
  • The charity also provided evidence to show that it has updated its complaints policy to include the details of the relevant regulators complaints can be escalated to. As such, we made no recommendation in this regard.
  • We recommended that the charity implements a policy detailing the behavior it expects of its trustees and volunteers when undertaking any form of fundraising, paying particular attention to the nature of a donation and fundraising via social media.

Outcome

We asked that the charity writes to us within one month of the date of our final decision to outline the action it has taken in response to our recommendations.