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Fundraising Peak Takes On CHOICE Report Over Nuisance Charity Calls

29 September 2016 at 3:29 pm
Lina Caneva
The Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) has embarked on a war of words with Not for Profit organisation CHOICE after the consumer advocacy group released a report which found nuisance charity cold calls were occurring with “alarming frequency”.

Lina Caneva | 29 September 2016 at 3:29 pm


Fundraising Peak Takes On CHOICE Report Over Nuisance Charity Calls
29 September 2016 at 3:29 pm

The Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) has embarked on a war of words with Not for Profit organisation CHOICE after the consumer advocacy group released a report which found nuisance charity cold calls were occurring with “alarming frequency”.

The FIA has described the report as an “unfair and unwarranted attack” on charities and said it would take the fight right up to the CHOICE boardroom.

The CHOICE report into nuisance calls, Who’s On the Line, found that calls from charities, or commercial companies that represent them, were the primary source of unsolicited calls with more than 25 per cent of Australians interviewed saying they had received unwanted calls from a charity each week.

“A minority of potentially vulnerable consumers are receiving calls from charities on landlines on a daily basis or even more often,” the report said.

Choice image 3

“Consumers do not want to receive these calls and are particularly worried about the impact of aggressive requests for donations on older relatives and friends.

“Commercial companies acting on behalf of charities have at times demonstrated a ruthlessness and disregard for consumers, sometimes for the very consumers they are collecting funds to assist.

“We found that these calls are particularly aggressive, can involve emotional manipulation and can perversely make consumers less likely to donate to the particular charity that called in the future.”

CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey said: “Calls asking for money are intrusive and put vulnerable members of society at risk when they are hounded week in and week out.

“Clearly the law needs to change to allow people to opt-out of all unsolicited calls that involve financial transactions.”

The CHOICE report recommended that the government remove the Do Not Call Register exemption for charities or that consumers be allowed to opt-out of receiving these calls.

However the Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Rob Edwards hit back by writing an open letter to the directors of CHOICE Magazine to seek an explanation for what he described as an attack on fellow members of the Not for Profit sector.

Edwards told Pro Bono Australia News that he was particularly taking aim at the board of CHOICE over the report.

“This whole thing is on the nose. The report is profoundly inaccurate. And what did this report find? Surprise, surprise people don’t like telemarketing calls,” Edwards said.

“Many [CHOICE board members], including their chair Nicole Rich, head of Family, Youth and Children’s Law at Victoria Legal Aid, are working towards the same goal of helping the less fortunate in society. Why have they now decided to go on the attack against charitable fundraising?

“Nearly every member of their board is involved with a charitable cause that makes fundraising appeals to the community using the very channels they are trying to kill off.

“What is behind this? We would like to know and have asked these members of the philanthropic community to please explain.

“Why are these people on the attack against fundraising, when they are obviously big supporters of the charitable and Not for Profit sector themselves?

“CHOICE Magazine itself is not just a fellow Not for Profit but an aggressive marketer using email, telephone, social media and direct mail tactics to gain new members. They use publicity from attack campaigns like the current one directed at other Not for Profits to raise their own profile at the expense of others in the sector.”

Choice image with phone 2

Edwards said the CHOICE report was riddled with factual errors, made unfounded assertions and was based on statistically inaccurate samples.

“Even if charities were not exempt from the Do Not Call Register, they would still be able to call donors with whom they have an existing relationship, as these people have consented to receive communications,” he said.

“Here’s an insight for the people at CHOICE, donors don’t give money to charities unless they are asked.”

However, the CHOICE report found that after receiving an unsolicited fundraising call from a charity, 66 per cent of consumers said they were less likely to donate to that charity in the future.

This increased to 71 per cent for people 65 to 89 years old. Only 7 per cent of people said they were more likely to donate to that charity in the future. This decreased to 1 per cent for people 65 to 89 years old. When consumers do donate they reported receiving more unsolicited calls from others asking for donations.

CHOICE said another option for addressing problems in the sector may be to amend existing codes of conduct that applied to charities, however, as there were a number of codes and all were voluntary, these would not fully address problems.

“Particular consideration needs to be given to whether or not callers have been given adequate training to enable them to recognise when a call recipient is vulnerable, and take appropriate action (ie do not continue the call or process any financial transactions),” the report said.

“Reform should also consider whether it is currently easy for the recipient of a call to make it clear that their preference is to not receive calls, and for that preference to be acted on.

“Consumers should not have to repeat this with every individual charity or business, but should be able to effectively opt-out of receiving all calls.”

Edwards said the report also threw door-to-door fundraising into the whole mix.

“I bet the Salvation Army would like to hear that, and the community would be interested to know that if these charities couldn’t raise money through either door knocking or telemarketing then someone is going to have to bear the cost and it will ultimately be consumers through their taxes anyway,” he said.

“The reality is that charities, just as commercial organisations do, are able to obtain lists of potential donors or commercial organisations… all of this is perfectly legal under the privacy act. It’s normal commercial practice.

“We will take on the CHOICE board because I think it’s inflammatory and totally unnecessary and for charities in the marketplace at the moment it is increasingly difficult to raise funds especially with governments withdrawing funds from a lot of charities.

“So what are charities going to do, sit on their hands and do nothing? They have to raise money somewhere and the telephone seems to be the most effective way.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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  • Kaye Blackman says:

    Thanks for this article. I haven’t read the CHOICE article, but was very surprised at their claim that 25% of all unsolicited calls come from charities. Maybe my experience, and those of family and friends who I have spoken to, is unusual. None of us have received ‘cold calls’ from charities, but all receive many, many unsolicited calls each week identifying as ‘telecommunications companies’ or ‘financial services’ DESPITE that fact that we have all registered on the Do Not Call list. In some cases, for example my 91 year old mother, these calls are stressful and disturbing.

  • Julie Radalj says:

    I have had it with ‘professional fundraisers for charities’ calling me and I swear from this day forward IN PROTEST I will not donate a cent to any charity in Australia by any means of fundraising until our government legislate to ban calls to private phones for fundraising purposes.

    There are other ways to raise funds that don’t involve such intrusion into people’s private lives.

    Send a letter, hold an event, post a banner, advertise in the media BUT DON’T CALL ME ON MY PRIVATE PHONE

  • Angela Marshall says:

    I have just hung up on a very pleasant young woman who identified herself as calling me on behalf of ‘Charity Choice’. I rudely hung up because for the past six or so weeks I have been completely overwhelmed with cold calls from various charities, mainly but not exclusively health oriented, that want me to sign up to regular monthly donations. In my opinion these are as an outcome of my agreeing to answer some questions for a company that called me ‘wanting to understand Australians’ attitude to philanthropic giving’ (this is not a verbatim quote but that was the essence of the request. I agreed to take part as I thought that it was a useful piece of research. We are also regular donors to arrange of carefully chosen charities as well as the occasional one-off requests due to crises. We choose the charities we support so that we have a range of domestic and international ones covering health, education, the environment, the arts and social justice. We review our giving at least once a year and drop some and replace them with others but always trying to keep a good range of organisations.
    Since doing that survey I have fielded so many calls from various charities, sometimes up to three or four a day, always many a week – and I started by just explaining that we already knew which charities we would be supporting over the coming years. Initially I kept a note of each one that rang and promised to look into their angle but now I am reduced to being rude to blameless young women (and a few cheerful men) who cold call me. So I am absolutely convinced by the CHOICE survey and conclusions.
    I doubt that my experience is unique but letting a pollster know that we are regular donors to a range of charities has opened the floodgates and is driving me to despair and brusque rudeness.


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