Complaints about charities’ use of direct mail increased by 86 per cent in 2010, despite a 27 per cent fall in the number of items sent out, figures from the Fundraising Standards Board show.
In its latest annual report, published today, the organisation says that complaints about direct mail rose from 5,081 in 2009 to 9,462 last year.
This is despite the fact that FRSB member charities sent out 146,241,806 individual pieces of direct mail in 2010, down from 200,392,580 in 2009.
The most common complaints about direct mail related to inaccurate data, resulting, for example, in mail being sent to people who had died.
Complaints about poor data were slightly higher than those about excessive frequency of appeals, the report says, which was the most complained-about aspect of direct mail in 2009.
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, told Third Sector: "The number of direct mail complaints is a significant statistic, but there’s no obvious reason why those numbers have gone up and the level of activity has gone down.
"The fact is there’s been no increase in direct mail stage-two complaints."
A stage-two complaint is one that has not been resolved by the charity and goes to the FRSB for consideration.
Telephone fundraising was the next most complained-about activity after direct mail, with 2,840 complaints in 2010. Door-to-door was third on 2,360.
For the first time, the FRSB examined the main reasons for complaints, such as data errors, and found that email fundraising attracted the second-largest number of data-protection complaints.
Of the 1,200 complaints – where, for example, someone was contacted through an address they had asked not to be used – email accounted for 29 per cent.
Direct mail attracted the largest percentage of data protection complaints, at 46 per cent. Telephone fundraising accounted for 23 per cent.
Of the number of sign-ups achieved by street fundraisers, 0.17 per cent attracted a total of 485 complaints. This was the highest proportion of complaints for any type of fundraising. However, the report notes that the proportion would be lower if it related to the number of approaches made to the public by street fundraisers.