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Door-to-door fundraisers for Great Ormond Street Hospital ‘pretended to cry to pressure people to give donations’: Charity and regulator launch probe amid ‘deeply concerning’ findings


Fundraisers looking to score donations for the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Charity are under investigation after a probe found they were being taught to use pressure-selling techniques whilst going door-to-door.

IBA Global, a private contracting firm tasked with acquiring regular donations for GOSH Charity, has been snared allegedly teaching trainees to use psychological tricks on would-be donors.

Undercover footage revealed a senior fundraiser telling would-be recruits that he could cry on command; with those sent out to gather cash armed with an array of hard-sell tactics designed to overcome any and all objections to their pleas.

GOSH Charity says it is ‘deeply concerned’ by the findings of the secret filming, which also found that fundraisers were not complying with licensing laws requiring them to notify relevant authorities of their door-to-door activities.

IBA Global, meanwhile, said it operated a ‘strict policy of reasonably persuasion’, and claimed some of the findings of the investigation had been taken out of context.

GOSH Charity raises funds to cover the costs of refurbishing and investing in new equipment for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is run day to day by a separate NHS trust

GOSH Charity raises funds to cover the costs of refurbishing and investing in new equipment for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is run day to day by a separate NHS trust

The charity says it is 'deeply concerned' at claims that sub-contracted third-party fundraisers were being taught to use pressure selling techniques

The charity says it is ‘deeply concerned’ at claims that sub-contracted third-party fundraisers were being taught to use pressure selling techniques

The website for IBA Global, which was subcontracted by Acwyre to go door-to-door raising funds for GOSH Charity. It claims its techniques have been misrepresented

The website for IBA Global, which was subcontracted by Acwyre to go door-to-door raising funds for GOSH Charity. It claims its techniques have been misrepresented

The investigation, conducted by The Times, found that trainees – who were paid on commission, rather than with an hourly wage – were pushed to maximise the amount they were raising on the doorsteps with incentives like trips to Paris.

Once recruited – promised up to £45 per donor depending on how much they agreed to donate a month – the undercover reporter was among those shown tricks such as crying on command in order to elicit sympathy on doorsteps.

Workers would be sent out to knock on doors until 8.30pm at night, aiming to sign up as many people as possible to recurring direct debit donations, rather than one-off payments. 

A senior fundraiser even claimed he would pretend to be deaf in order to get householders to answer the door despite their objections, and to elicit sympathy.

And when sent out to ‘shadow’ existing fundraisers, the investigator found they would use hard-selling techniques on the door, suggesting other people had donated as much as £150 over the course of a year.

If met with resistance, such as concerns about the current economic climate, the seller would then break down the amount to make it sound smaller – for example, £2.50 a week – in order to close the deal.

One teenage trainee claimed to have signed someone up while they were smoking cannabis – against charity campaigning rules. 

And fundraisers were discouraged from discussing how many sign-ups they had managed to get and were expected to pay their own food and travel costs.

IBA Global, which is not a charitable company and is not registered with the Fundraising Regulator, said it operated a ‘strict policy of reasonable persuasion’ and claimed its fundraising activities were ‘misrepresented’ in the investigation.

Nevertheless, it has vowed to investigate the claims as laid out by the paper. 

It was subcontracted to carry out fundraising by Acwyre, a ‘customer acquisition agency’ that is registered with the regulator. IBA staff wore Acwyre lanyards despite not being employed by the firm. 

GOSH Charity raises funds for the hospital, covering an anticipated £50million refurbishment as well as investments into new medical equipment and additional support for its young patients.

Its finances are distinct from the day-to-day costs associated with running the hospital, which are covered by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust – which is not implicated in the fundraising scandal.

In its most recent annual report, GOSH Charity said complaints about fundraising had almost doubled from 265 in 2021/22 to 900 in 2022/23. It conceded that ‘many’ complaints stemmed from ‘face to face fundraising’.

It told The Times it was ‘deeply concerned’ by the allegations presented by its undercover reporter and would conduct an investigation.

GOSH Charity has referred itself to the Fundraising Regulator, which said it had also begun an investigation. 

Acwyre said it would conduct a thorough inquiry, adding: ‘Pressurised fundraising is not a tactic endorsed by Acwyre or any of its contracted suppliers.’

Similar fundraising activities have been reported in the last year in Wales, where an undercover reporter filmed fundraisers allegedly lying to people that their neighbours had signed up for contributions in a bid to make them do the same.

The fundraisers, working for third-party firms Vantage Consultancy and Solution Cardiff on behalf of SOS Save Our Children, were slammed for their ‘shocking’ and ‘very manipulative’ sales tactics.

MailOnline has contacted GOSH Charity, IBA Global and the Fundraising Regulator for additional comment.



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