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Refining our complaints process

By Catherine Orr, Head of Casework at the Fundraising Regulator 

Last year, we accepted our first request for an external review of our casework. Having received a complaint from a charity we had investigated and identified as breaching the Code of Fundraising Practice, we asked our independent external reviewer to look at and feedback on our decision making during this investigation. 

After a process which involved seeking evidence from and speaking to both the charity and our casework team, the reviewer partially upheld the charity’s complaint. We have published the summary of their report on our website. 

One of the reviewer’s recommendations was to revisit our original decision in light of their findings. Today we publish our revised findings and recommendations to the charity and agency in an investigation summary. Whilst no one likes criticism, I appreciate the opportunity to have our casework reviewed and believe that this process is important as we continue to develop and improve our services. 

How we investigate complaints

We consider complaints about fundraising from the public and others against the standards set out in the code. We open investigations where we see potential breaches of the code and opportunities for learning for the organisations concerned, and the wider charity sector. A formal investigation allows us to communicate our reasoning and any recommendations for improvement we make.

At the end of the investigation, the complainant or the organisations involved may request an external review if certain criteria are met. Our Vice-Chair considers the request and determines whether the case should be passed to the external reviewer.

What the external review found

We issued our final decision about the original case in January 2019, which upheld the complaint by a member of the public against both the charity and the agency complained about. The charity requested an independent external review of our decision, which took place in the autumn of 2019. 

The review partially upheld the charity’s complaint against us and made recommendations to both the charity concerned and to us. It found that we provided the charity and its agency with sufficient opportunity to give us the evidence we needed but were unfair in reaching the conclusions that we did. The reviewer found we attached too much weight to the complainant’s evidence, and should have asked for more information from them as key facts were disputed.

We accepted the findings and agreed to implement the recommendations in full, which included reviewing the way we obtain and consider evidence.

Improvements we have made

In line with the reviewer’s recommendations, we have: 

  • assigned a member of staff and board member not involved in the original investigation to review our original decision. We then issued a revised decision to all parties.
  • reviewed our handling of contested evidence and produced an action plan, which was presented to our Complaints and Investigations Committee.
  • met with the charity and agency to reflect on better ways of working together in the future.

This review process has been a valuable opportunity for us to learn from a complaint about our work. I am committed to addressing concerns raised with us, and implementing learning, so that we continue to improve and offer a fair service to everyone who interacts with our complaints process. 

For further information, please contact the Fundraising Regulator press team on 020 3327 4050 or FR@pagefield.co.uk.