400 charity complaints after death
Nearly 400 complaints have been made about the behaviour of charities following the death of one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy-sellers, a watchdog has revealed.
The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) said it wanted the public to be given more control over the way charities approach people and make it easier to opt out of unwanted contact.
The regulator launched an investigation into charity fundraising practices in the wake of allegations that volunteer Olive Cooke died after being overwhelmed by requests.
The 92-year-old was found with multiple injuries on May 6 after jumping into Avon Gorge, two days before the anniversary of VE Day.
At one point she received 267 charity letters in one month, leading to suggestions that the hounding for money pushed her to take her own life.
Her family have insisted that - while the letters and phone calls were intrusive and a nuisance - the charities were not to blame for Mrs Cooke's death.
In its interim report, the FRSB, the self-regulator for charity fundraising in the UK, said it received 384 complaints from May 15 to June 5.
Four in 10 (42%) complaints were related to the the frequency of charity communications, while more than a third (35%) were about approaches being made to elderly or vulnerable people.
FRSB chief executive Alistair McLean said: "Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many people who recognise the vital work that charities do and the pressing need for donations to fund that work, but they also feel that charities are asking too often.
"The public wants greater clarity and more control over how their contact details are being used and the amount of times they will be asked to give.
"Although the Code already makes it clear that charities must respect donors' preferences in terms of the way they are contacted, how their details are used and the amount of times they can be approached, we want to see charities making those options much more evident.
"Essentially, we want the public to be given more control over the way they are approached by charities and for further safeguards to be put in place when it comes to fundraising requests of the elderly and vulnerable."
One in six complaints (16%) received by the FRSB were about consent for charities' to use their contact data, while one in three complaints addressed fundraising by specific charities which will be investigated by the watchdog.
The FRSB said it handled a total of 488 fundraising complaints in 2014.
It has now called for areas of t he Institute of Fundraising's Code of Fundraising Practice to be strengthened in the wake of Mrs Cooke's death.
Among the recommendations, the FRSB said there should be greater clarity about the rules for gaining donor consent, including a requirement for charities to provide clear and easy ways for people to opt out of further communication.
The code should l imit the frequency of charity approaches per year, e xpand current guidance for communicating with elderly and vulnerable people and r emove the current code reference which states that fundraisers can use "reasonable persuasion", it said.
The code should also make clear that permission must be granted by an individual before their personal information can be passed on to third parties and c larify that charities cannot call people that are registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), unless the individual has given clear permission to receive calls, the watchdog said.
The FRSB will present the interim report to the Institute of Fundraising's Standards Committee tomorrow.
The Institute of Fundraising has committed to review its Code of Fundraising Practice and relevant guidance in light of the investigation findings, the regulator added.