June 9, 2014;

Want money? According to a study in the UK, the strategy might be to leave people alone. According to the UK’s Fundraising Standards Board, there was a 44 percent spike in 2013 on complaints issued to the Fundraising Standards Board. Looking further into the data, the following points became key:

  • A “majority of the complaints were about direct mail, telephone and doorstep, and came from a total of 20 billion fundraising ‘asks’, up from 13.2 billion in 2012.”
  • Doorstep complaints continued to rise in 2013 and were up 27 percent, with total volume increasing to 44.3 million doorstep asks. The number of asks taken to generate a complaint is one complaint for every 1,395 asks.
  • Telephone fundraising, at 17 percent of all complaints, generates the second-greatest number of complaints. Telephone fundraising takes the least number of asks to generate a complaint, at 923. The most common causes for complaint were the “tone/content of the call and dislike of the method.”
  • Direct mail complaints, the most common kind of complaint, rose 38 percent in 2013. Direct mail also had a 57 percent increase in volume, to 444 million mailings during the year.

Looking deeper at mailings, a large number of mail complaints related to “just three charities were responsible for four in ten of all addressed mail complaints and just one charity reported more than half of complaints about unaddressed mailings.” While the number of complaints is rising, the complaints represent a very small subsection of nonprofits asking for funding.

According to Colin Lloyd, who chairs of the Fundraising Standards Board, a “large majority of charities don’t receive any complaints, a small minority of organizations that deliver high volume campaigns are generating the bulk of all concerns. These charities appeal to millions of people with their work and, when something goes wrong, complaint levels can escalate quickly. As such, they carry great responsibility for maintaining the highest standards in their work to preserve and protect public trust in charitable giving.”

While the United States does not have a similar report, there has certainly been a debate for some time on the changing dynamics in fundraising techniques and how they align with the growth of social media. The Better Business Bureau has suggested methods of dealing with these areas, including direct mail. If the UK is any model, the annoying aspects of these fundraising approaches will likely be conducted by a few, but felt by all.—John Brothers