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Olive Cooke’s legacy: calls for tougher regulation of fundraising

Olive Cooke’s legacy: calls for tougher regulation of fundraising

The story of Olive Cooke, the 92 year old found dead in the Avon Gorge after allegedly being “hounded to death” by charities asking for donations, has prompted a call for fundraising reforms. MPs have proposed enacting a new ‘Olive’s Law’ which would prevent charities from targeting the elderly after it came to light that Olive Cooke received around 260 pieces of direct mail from charities each month.

Following a brief consultation, the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has published an interim report which made the following eight recommendations designed to strengthen the Code of Fundraising Practice (the “Code”). These include:

  1. Frequency of approaches – the public should be given more control over the frequency and methods of communication used by charities in communicating with them.
  2. Opt-outs – should be clearly and simply stated in all marketing correspondence.
  3. The elderly – communications to older supporters should be tailored appropriately.
  4. Use of scripts – the Code should stipulate how many times it is appropriate for a telephone fundraiser to request a donation in one approach and make clear that it is never acceptable to pressurise people into giving. Charities should actively monitor the content and tone of telephone pitches.
  5. Data sharing– organisations engaged in data sharing must make it clear that donors’ personal contact information may be shared.
  6. TPS & MPS –the Code should reflect the view that Telephone Preference Service (TPS) supporters should not be contacted by telephone unless they have stated otherwise and a review should be undertaken of the effectiveness of the Mail Preference Service (MPS).
  7. Direct mail – charities should be mindful of recipients feeling pressurised into making a donation.
  8. ‘Ought’ replaced by ‘must’ – requirements in the Code that use the word ‘ought’ should be replaced with the word ‘must’ to make clear that adherence is not optional.

The Institute of Fundraising has announced that it has immediate plans to implement recommendations 2, 6 and 8 above and it has set up task groups to focus on recommendations 1, 5 and 7. Consideration is also being given to standards specifically related to telephone fundraising including the introduction of TPS certification requirements. However, others in the sector have criticised these proposals as being insufficient.

What is clear is that fundraising practice is coming under closer scrutiny and there will be pressure in the coming months for tighter regulation. Charities are advised to keep their fundraising policies and relationships with professional fundraisers under review to ensure compliance with the latest FRSB and Institute of Fundraising recommendations for best practice.

For additional information on fundraising law or to discuss your requirements with one of our charity law solicitors, call us today on 01895 207809 or email charities@ibblaw.co.uk.