Complaints about online fundraising increased by 252% during the pandemic

Complaints about online fundraising increased by 252% during the pandemic

At the height of the pandemic, online fundraising became the most complained about method of fundraising. The Fundraising Regulator’s latest Annual Complaints Report reveals from April 2020 to March 2021, 56 of the UK’s largest fundraising charities reported 5,836 complaints about it, to the regulator – a 252% increase on the previous year’s figures.

Online fundraising methods include social media, charity websites and advertising banners. The increase in online and digital (email, text etc) fundraising complaints aligns with how charities had to shift their fundraising activities online during the pandemic while person-to-person contact at events, street fundraising and door-to-door fundraising were paused.

While there has been a significant increase in complaints about the method of fundraising, the number of complaints reported by charities is relatively small when compared with the level of activity carried out. The report finds that 1 in 1,886,192 impressions received a complaint.

Following the report, the Fundraising Regulator has outlined how it will focus on supporting the sector to achieve good standards of online fundraising and to understand the risks that this method can involve. This includes a review of the Code of Fundraising Practice in 2022, which will consider whether existing standards in the code related to digital fundraising are sufficient to support the sector, or whether changes are needed in this area.

Other methods of fundraising reported by charities as receiving a high number of complaints were addressed mail, with 3,687 complaints, and corporate fundraising, with 2,504 complaints. These were the second and third most complained about methods respectively.

Despite the steep increase in complaints about online fundraising, the report also finds that the total number of complaints received by the sample charities was down during the pandemic. In 2021, 17,800 complaints were received, which is down by 4% on last year’s figure.

The most common cause of complaint across all fundraising methods we received was misleading information – which could involve unclear claims about why donations are needed or how they will be spent, or a failure to present information that allows the donor to make an informed decision.

Chief executive, Gerald Oppenheim, said: “The Annual Complaints Report provides us with a really important overview of how the fundraising landscape has changed over the past year. This report is an early indicator of the impact of the pandemic on the charity sector and it is a vital tool to help us understand where the sector needs to improve its fundraising practices.

“It is encouraging to see that the overall number of complaints about charitable fundraising continued to decline during the pandemic, which shows that good fundraising practice has prevailed at a time of unprecedented challenges for the sector.

“We will continue to work closely with charities to support them in some of the areas the report has identified – particularly in relation to online fundraising – and make sure both charities and the public are equipped with the tools to fundraise, and donate, safely.”

Card payments grow as cash transactions continue to decline 

Card payments grow as cash transactions continue to decline 

The latest Payments Survey from the British Retail Consortium reveals that debit and credit cards were used to pay for £326.2 billion worth of goods in 2020, accounting for 81% of all retail sales. This compares with £308.5 billion worth of sales in the previous year, or 78% of sales.

It is little surprise that 2020 saw a significant decline in cash payments. The Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdowns saw ‘non-essential retailers’ close their doors and high streets deserted as people shopped online leaving fewer opportunities for cash spending.

The ensuing social distancing measures and favouring of contactless payments has continued to negatively impact cash use with the volume of cash purchases falling by seven percentage points in 2020 to 30% of retail transactions.

Cash was used to pay for £60.9 billion worth of goods in 2020 (accounting for just over 15% of sales value), compared with £77.6 billion in 2019 (accounting for just under 20% of sales value). Given the circumstances, the decline of less than five percentage points in terms of sales value accounted for by cash suggests a high level of resilience for cash use remains.

The survey also reveals the pandemic has changed the way we shop, not just how we pay; with consumers making fewer but bigger shopping trips.

While the number of transactions fell by 13% (from 19.1 billion in 2019 to 16.7 billion in 2020), consumers spent on average 20% more per transaction. Thus, the average transaction value increased from £20.16 in 2019 to £24.15 in 2020.

The trend towards card payments in recent years has seen retailers incur costs of more than £1 billion just to accept these payments from customers in 2020. Debit cards, which accounted for over half of all transactions (54%) for the first time, have seen transaction fees rise by 22% (to 7.2 pence per transaction). Equivalent to £46 per household per year, these additional costs can translate into higher prices for consumers.

The BRC, along with other business groups, has long been calling on Parliament to intervene and tackle anti-competitive practices in card payments to protect British businesses and consumers from spiralling costs.

Andrew Cregan, payments policy advisor for British Retail Consortium said: “The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards card payments, with more than four in every five pounds spent in retail now made with credit or debit cards. Basket sizes also rose, as customers made bigger, but fewer purchases. While cash use has declined in importance, it remains vital for many people who do not have access to other payment methods.

“Despite the general movement to card payments, retailers are being punished through the soaring cost of accepting such payments. Parliament needs to urgently intervene in this anti-competitive behaviour by regulating card scheme fees and abolishing interchange fees, both of which ultimately hurt consumers. Card firms are abusing their dominant market position, and this must come to an end.”

Tesco rolls out reusable packaging in ten stores

Tesco rolls out reusable packaging in ten stores

Food giant Tesco has partnered with global reuse platform Loop to introduce waste-free packaging into ten of their stores this month. The reusable containers can be cleaned, refilled and used again and again before eventually being recycled at the end of their life.

Customers will be able to buy 88 products in reusable packaging, which they can return to the store on their next shop. Well-known brands including Bisto, Brewdog, Heinz, Persil and Quaker Oats are on offer in the Loop reuse station, plus 35 Tesco own brand essentials.

The alternative to single-use packaging was piloted with home delivery since July 2020 and will now be available in the following ten stores:

  • Leicester Hamilton
  • Stratford Upon Avon
  • Ashby De La Zouch
  • Loughborough Rushes
  • Milton Keynes Kingston
  • Northampton South
  • Cambridge Newmarket Road
  • Wellingborough
  • MK Wolverton
  • Evesham

 

How it Works

Customers can buy products from the Loop area in store and pay as normal, plus a small deposit. The deposit is refunded via the Loop deposit app when the packaging is later returned. The durable containers are cleaned and refilled and can be reused many times.

Loop works with brands and manufacturers to enable refillable versions of their conventional single-use products. They partner with leading retailers to embed these offerings into their online eCommerce and physical retail stores. The platform aims to make reuse as convenient and accessible as single use.

The partnership with Loop differs to zero-waste shops which ask customers to bring their own containers to fill up from their refill stations.

Tesco estimates that if customers in the 10 selected stores switched their recyclable tomato ketchup, cola and washing up liquid bottles to the reusable Loop alternatives, the packaging would be used and reused more than two and a half million times a year. The supermarket says their next step is to scale up the service.

Over 11,000 homes built by G15 members in the last year

Over 11,000 homes built by G15 members in the last year

A total of 11,056 new homes across the country were completed by G15 members in 2020/21 despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Out of the 11,056 newly completed homes, 72% were for affordable housing tenures, including 48% being affordable rented homes. The proceeds from the sales of homes completed for the open market and market rent are used to help deliver affordable homes through cross-subsidy.

The number of new homes completed in the last year was the second highest total since 2015/16, only bettered by the 13,356 homes that were handed over in 2018/19.

Alongside the completions, 2020/21 also saw construction begin on a further 10,951 new homes, 85% of which are affordable homes – the highest proportion in the last six years.

The last year saw building works start on the largest number of new social rent homes since 2015/16, with 1,050 homes getting under way.

Meanwhile, new market sale homes fell from 22% of total starts in 2019/20 to just under 12% in 2020/21, whereas the proportion of new homes for shared ownership that started on site is up by around 3% year-on-year.

In terms of location, 60% of starts in the last year were on homes in London, and 64% of handovers were in the capital.

In the first three months of the new financial year (2021/22), a further 1,675 homes were handed over and building work began on 813 homes, 99% of which were affordable homes.

Geeta Nanda OBE, G15 chair and chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH), commented: “Building the new homes that people across the country so desperately need is incredibly important and these latest figures show the massive contribution G15 members are making to tackling the housing crisis.

“The last 18 months have been some of the hardest I can ever recall, especially with the initial site shutdowns that were required, and the challenges social distancing presented on construction sites. With that in mind, to have delivered the second largest number of new homes in any year since 2015/16 is testimony to the hard work and commitment of our colleagues and partners.

“We’re determined to continue building the new homes people need, including affordable homes. 85% of the new homes we started construction on last year are for affordable tenures, so I’m really looking forward to seeing further progress on delivering those homes in the coming year.

“However, we are seeing some challenges from shortages of labour and materials, which are contributing to rising construction costs. We will continue to work with our contractors and suppliers to mitigate these risks as far as possible, but they do point to longer-term issues that will need addressing, such as ensuring we are training and bringing new people into the construction section at a steady rate.”

TfL to use new technology to help ease roadwork disruption in London

TfL to use new technology to help ease roadwork disruption in London

Transport for London has awarded contracts to two innovative technology companies that will make the management of London’s road network safer, smarter and more efficient.

The decision to work with the companies follows a challenge called RoadLab launched by TfL in 2019, which called on the UK’s leading innovators to develop technology that could reduce road danger and disruption caused by roadworks and unplanned incidents on the capital’s road network.

Nine innovators were chosen to go through to a ten-week programme, where their proposed technology was trialled and developed with the support of London’s major utility companies and London Councils.

Following a procurement process, TfL has now awarded contracts to samdesk and Immense.

Immense uses innovative simulation technology that models roadworks to understand their impact on the capital’s road network before they take place. The software can provide TfL and utilities staff with information on predicted congestion impacts, increases in emissions and the safety impacts of planned roadworks. This information can then be used to inform people in London about predicted impacts to their intended journey.

Software from samdesk leverages artificial intelligence and real time anonymised social media data  to detect emerging disruptions. This information will give TfL staff a quicker and more comprehensive insight into incidents as they unfold across the transport  network, helping them  to respond faster.

TfL is now working with both companies and is looking to start using their software in the coming months.

The programme was funded by TfL’s Lane Rental scheme, which charges roadworks companies for digging up  London’s busiest roads at times that cause the most disruption to people’s journeys. This money is then invested in tackling congestion and minimising the impact of roadworks. TfL says the scheme has saved £100m in lost travel time since it started.

Rikesh Shah, TfL’s head of commercial innovation, said: “London’s road network plays an absolutely vital role in keeping the capital moving and we’re always looking for innovative ways of making our streets safer, smarter and more sustainable. Our RoadLab programme has shown how the public and private sector can work together to create smart solutions to London’s transport problems.”

Robin North, Immense CEO added: “’Immense is delighted to provide TfL with access to our simulation platform. We believe our capability will help to assess impacts and inform better roadwork planning across the TfL network and in turn, contribute to keeping London moving.”

James Neufeld, CEO, samdesk, said:  “We’re excited to support and learn from TfL in their mission to keep Londoners moving while making it a safer, smarter and more sustainable city. By applying our Artificial Intelligence  platform, TfL will spot disruptive events that impede the flow and safety of travellers minutes to hours faster.

‘In the time that TfL has been piloting our platform, we’ve already seen strong numerical results. From fast rerouting of buses due to building fires to spotting platform overcrowding, our partnership is already making London a more efficient and safer city.”

L&Q announce £1.9 billion improvement plan to existing stock

L&Q announce £1.9 billion improvement plan to existing stock

L&Q are set to invest £1.9 billion over the next seven years to transform its existing homes and neighbourhoods.

The charitable housing association currently house around 250,000 people in more than 105,000 homes, primarily across London and the South East.

The £1.9 billion fund will include a wide range of improvements, including works to maintain Decent Homes standards, major internal and external works, estate improvements, fire safety and energy works to reduce carbon emissions.

This investment will be in addition to spending on routine repairs and servicing, works to enable the reletting of empty homes and overhead costs, and also in addition to investment in Trafford Housing Trust homes.

The seven-year housing investment programme, spanning 2022 to 2029, will run alongside a new corporate strategy which L&Q says includes prioritising “more focus on and investment in the safety of residents and existing homes and services.”

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, L&Q group chief executive, said: “This investment is testament to our stronger focus on existing homes, and commitment to the safety of residents.

“I want every resident to be proud of their home, but we know that there are homes which currently fall short of the quality our residents deserve. This landmark programme will allow us to make substantial improvements to L&Q homes and neighbourhoods across the country.”

Gerri Scott, group director of customer services at L&Q, added: “This programme puts much needed investment into L&Q’s homes and will be driven and overseen by our Residents Services Board. They will advocate on behalf of all residents to ensure that the programme delivers to timescale, is value for money and high quality.

“We’ve already begun informal conversations with potential contractors, so that they’re in no doubt that the success of the programme is dependent on the quality of the resident experience. The contracts we award will be regionally-based and will include SMEs, and we’re keen to see a programme of this scale unlock a legacy of social impact through training, apprenticeships, and community investment. New contracts will be in place from summer 2022.”

Part of the £1.9 billion investment will go towards achieving L&Q’s aim of Energy EPC C status across all homes by 2030.

The programme will also include vital fire safety works – delivered in addition to over £100m already spent on building safety activity since the Grenfell tragedy.