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How the British Government Uses Mystery Shopping to Check on Fundraisers

Given the state of the current economy, most of us can agree that the spirit of charity is more important now than ever. Many charities are most effective when raising money by going door-to-door. However, with the increased number of charities choosing to fundraise this way comes a new need to coordinate and monitor the regulation of professional standards (including limits on frequency of visits and size of teams). The United Kingdom is taking a particularly interesting approach to this. (And yes, it’s a mystery shopping solution Why else would it be on a mystery shopping blog?)

looking down Royal Mile (with Tron Kirk in vie...
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The UK has established the Professional Fundraising Regulatory Association (PRFA), which ensures that charity staff members are complying with voluntary management agreements. This basically means that local authorities work with the local fundraising community to establish “acceptable levels of public fundraising activity.” When a charity enters into an agreement with the PFRA, the association administers the operation of street and house-to-house collections. The PFRA also investigates any complaints arising from charity collections. Their main goal is to “provide a balance between the right of the charity to fund raise and the right of the public to go about their business with the least impression of inconvenience.”

So how does the PFRA exercise quality control? How do they ensure that charities are complying with local and legislative requirements? They use mystery shoppers!

Currently, the PFRA uses mystery shoppers in London, Bristol, and Edinburgh, Scotland. They also plan to increase coverage to include cities and towns in northern England. Secret shoppers go undercover as charity volunteers and report back to the contracted mystery shopping service where they are doing well and how they need to improve. Nick Henry, the head of standards at the PFRA, has said that managers find these spot checks are “useful incentives for getting fundraisers to follow best practices.”

We assume the PFRA must be finding success with this approach if they are continuing to expand their efforts across the United Kingdom. Australia and New Zealand have also been inspired by creating their own divisions of the PFRA. We’re interested to see what kinds of success these associations find, and if the United States will be the next to follow suit.

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