If a charity fundraiser knocks on your door is it cold calling?
This was just one of the questions the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) considered following a complaint it received about Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
The complaint came from a householder who had been approached on their doorstep by a charity fundraiser despite a 'No Cold Calling' sign being clearly displayed.
There is currently no law against doorstop cold calling in the UK, although there are legal provisions giving householders the right to cancel contracts they may have entered into as a result of such a visit. Also, the legal position on 'No Cold Calling' signs is ambiguous, particularly as to whether they apply to charities as well as businesses. The FRSB therefore considered the complaint in light of the Institute of Fundraising's Code of Fundraising Practice, which requires fundraisers to follow "respectful" fundraising practices.
Announcing the results of its investigation, the FRSB said that Battersea Dogs & Cats Home had not acted disrespectfully towards the complainant as it had taken immediate actions to suppress the address on its records and ensure no repeat visits. In addition, as the law around 'No Cold Calling' signs was unclear, the charity was not acting disrespectfully by continuing to visit households that displayed such signs.
Despite ruling in the charity's favour, the Board also made some recommendations to charities and the wider industry on this increasingly thorny issue:
- charities should be aware of the potential reputational damage of ignoring 'No Cold Calling' signs and should consider their fundraising policies in light of this risk;.
- research should be carried out to determine the views of the public on whether 'No Cold Calling' signage applies to charities, the results of which should inform possible changes to the industry Code;
- the charity sector should consider the possibility of introducing a doorstep fundraising preference service, similar to the Mailing Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service; and
- it urged the Institute of Fundraising to prioritise its review of this issue to provide clarity for the sector.