Appeal complaint upheld against Save The Children

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Regulator finds Save the Children breached the fundraising code, but praises its efforts to make amends

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28th October 2014 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A major children’s charity has been rapped after it published misleading content as part of a fundraising appeal.

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) upheld a complaint against Save the Children over its 2013 Liberia Capital Appeal, which was circulated through direct mail and an accompanying fundraising webpage.

In the regulator’s latest adjudication, it ruled that both elements of the appeal had breached Section 5.2 of the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice.

However, the charity was also praised for how it reacted to the complaint, which alleged that both the direct mail pack and the campaign webpage for the appeal contained inaccurate information that had the potential to mislead recipients.

We welcome the significant steps that the charity has taken to rectify matters

Save the Children’s campaign focused on Zinnah, a pregnant woman who had previously given birth on the side of the road.

It sought to fund new clinics for expectant mothers in Liberia, calling on donors to “help us build a clinic within reach, and save her baby’s life”.

Someone contacted the charity, concerned that the wording on the mailing indicated that a woman featured, called Zinnah, could benefit from one of the charity’s new clinics at childbirth. The complainant believed it was unlikely to be built before her baby was born.

Initially, the charity accepted that the appeal contained inconsistencies, but did not agree that the overall impression was misleading.

After further correspondence, Save the Children agreed to issue a mailing to supporters of the Liberia campaign clarifying that Zinnah had not given birth in a Save the Children clinic.

The wording on the webpage for the appeal was also amended to “help us build clinics so women like Zinnah don’t suffer this frightening experience” and the charity launched an internal review to determine what had gone wrong and what could be improved.

However, the complainant remained dissatisfied, concerned that Save the Children was not being transparent as to the reasons why the appeal had contained misleading content and why the charity would not share the report from the internal review and the complaint was referred to the FRSB.

Although upholding the complaint, the regulator concluded there was no evidence to indicate that the breach was deliberate, but that it was most likely due to insufficient attention to detail.

Save the Children was commended for the steps it subsequently took, including refresher training courses for its staff on the Code of Fundraising Practice, tightening up its copywriting sign off processes and recruiting a new member of staff to oversee risk and compliance.

FRSB chair Colin Lloyd said “The case has demonstrated to the FRSB board not only the importance of code compliance but also the operation of an effective and robust complaint handling process for charities.

“Whilst we welcome the significant steps that the charity has taken not only to rectify matters, but to improve their ongoing process, we also recognise the key role and tenacity of the complainant in bringing the issue to the attention of the charity and in working with the FRSB.”

Save The Children has been asked to comment.