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Legitimacy of charity clothing collections questioned as complaints nearly double

Clothing and household goods collections by charities prompted nearly 2,000 complaints in 2012 and the sector is now in the top five fund-raising offenders.

The self-regulatory body for fundraising, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), says the 2011 figure of 1,034 jumped to 1,910 last year.

The FRSB’s annual complaints report shows that 42% of charities who collect clothing reported complaints made against them. However, less than 1% of charities were responsible for three-quarters of all complaints in this area.

A spokesperson for the FRSB told MRW: “These are the first two years that we have reported on clothing collections. Complaints were surprisingly high last year and they have shot up again this year.”

She added: “There has been a huge spate of bogus clothing collections reported, including theft of legitimate collections bags on the doorstep. Fraudulent collection bags are perhaps the greater concern where people fake charity bags or pretend to represent a charity.”

The report shows that there were nearly 150m clothing collections in 2012.

The spokesperson added: “Clothing collections continue to be a big area for charitable income. They are one of the most successful ways for charities to keep up income streams in troubled times. Many complaints are about the legitimacy and frequency of collections.”

Wendy Mitchell, head of policy & public affairs at the Charity Retail Association, said: “As the data in this house-to-house collections of clothing has only been collected by the FRSB for the last two years, it is difficult to establish any trends, and it’s also important to note that most of the complaints [were] from a very small number of charities.

“We do not have the breakdown of how many of the collections were conducted by charity shops, however, we are always interested to hear about complaints data with regard to house-to-house collections and will watch with interest for future reports.”

A public awareness campaign (Bogus Bags) was launched by the FRSB in 2011, alerting the public to bogus charity collections. It was estimated that this costs UK charities up to £50m in lost income annually.

In response to the 2012 figures, the FRSB has recommended the introduction of a new auditing programme to assess compliance with the requirements of self-regulation of all fundraising.

Colin Lloyd, chair of the FRSB, said: “there are a number of fundraising activities and behaviour that the public is unhappy about. With the majority of charities that fundraise on the doorstep reporting complaints about behaviour, practitioners are advised to listen carefully to consumer concerns, address the issues and, where relevant, adapt accordingly.”

  • A new code for textile recycling collections was brought in by the Institute of Fundraising to challenge the problem of bogus collections in 2011, MRW reported.

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