Charity Commission: learning from complaints

The Charity Commission is urging charities to ‘listen and learn’ when issues are brought to them

This advice has come as a result of the Charity Commission reviewing the complaints that it receives about charities, and in particular those that fall below the regulatory threshold.

The report also comes amid criticism that the Charity Commission failed to adequately follow up complaints made by Alzheimer’s Society staff in 2018 regarding bullying and payouts to staff, recently reported upon in the national news.

In its recent press release, the Charity Commission advises that all charities can learn from the complaints that they receive and the vast majority of those reported come from individuals invested in the charity, such as staff, beneficiaries, volunteers and supporters. Often those who complain to the Charity Commission do so because they didn’t feel heard within the charity.

Charity can and should lead the way in taking public expectations seriously. If you’re a charity, that includes showing that you take complaints and concerns seriously, and are responding appropriately. This review demonstrates that these high expectations are shared by those close to you: your own beneficiaries, volunteers, staff, supporters and trustees – and that, if they complain, by responding well in the first place, you can help avoid matters being brought to the regulator’s attention. I hope this review helps empower charities to take preventative steps that avoid complaints, and to respond with care when problems do arise. –Helen Stephenson, CEO, Charity Commission

Your charity or community group may already have good processes in place in ensuring that the views of those receiving services or those working or volunteering for the charity are appropriately listened and responded to, here are some suggestions to enhance good practice and ensure your charity’s reputation is protected.

Suggested actions for charities
  • Review your complaints procedure, is it up to date and easily accessible? Does everyone know what to do when a complaint is received?
  • Do you have a separate grievance procedure for paid staff in view of their employment rights?
  • Do you have a separate volunteer problem solving procedure?
  • Add ‘complaints’ to the agenda for trustee meetings:
    • Have you received any in the last quarter?
    • How have they been dealt with?
    • Are there any lessons to be learnt in how complaints have been managed?
    • Are there any lessons to be learnt from the nature of the complaint?
    • Do you need to review any of your procedures as a result?
  • Consider working towards RVA Safe and Sound to review your charity governance and work towards best practice.
  • If you would like advice on the above, please contact advice@rva.org.uk or telephone 0118 937 2273.