The Children’s Society has apologised after some people were wrongly sent fundraising letters asking them to donate £100,000 to the charity.
The charity has received 170 complaints about the letters, which were sent to 20,000 people, asking them to either donate a lump sum or £2,777 a month over the next three years in order to fund a project worker.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the charity, issued the apology after it emerged that a proportion of the letters, intended only for potential high-value donors, were sent to the wrong group of people.
The fundraising agency Bluefrog said it developed the mailing pack for the campaign, launched in March, but that it had not been the agency's idea to ask for £100,000. The names and addresses of potential donors are understood to have been provided by the direct marketing agency Alchemy Direct Media. A spokesman for the charity said the campaign had so far raised £11,600.
Robert Newman, a pensioner who said he had received two of the letters in the course of one week, told the Sun on Sunday newspaper: "Some elderly people who are not on the ball might feel they have to fund something like this. They could feel frightened and pay up. I’d have to sell the house to pay it."
Reed said the charity had launched an investigation as soon as issues came to light and that it was reviewing its fundraising activities and relationships with agencies to ensure it learned from the mistakes that were made.
"We wholeheartedly apologise to any individuals who were wrongly approached, or who have taken offence at our requests for help," he said in a statement. "Our intention with this high-value appeal was to approach well-off individuals with a potential interest in our work.
"We are very sorry that wrongly selected individuals have been inconvenienced or distressed and are doing everything we can to make sure this does not happen in the future."
Michael Smith, managing director of Alchemy Direct Media, said he was unable to comment in time for Third Sector’s deadline.