FRSB received more than 300 complaints over death of poppy seller Olive Cooke

The fundraising regulator says its investigation into the case would address the circumstances that led the 92-year-old to feel overwhelmed by fundraising approaches from charities

Avon Gorge in Bristol, where Olive Cooke was found dead
Avon Gorge in Bristol, where Olive Cooke was found dead

The Fundraising Standards Board said today it had received more than 300 complaints from members of the public since the death of the poppy seller Olive Cooke was reported earlier this month.

The FRSB also confirmed that its investigation, which began on 18 May, would address the key themes that emerged from the complaints, which came after the 92-year-old was found dead in the Avon Gorge in Bristol. One national newspaper claimed she had been "hounded to death" by fundraising requests from charities.

The main themes of the complaints received by the FRSB were: the frequency with which people were approached by charities; the sharing of supporter data between charities and data agencies; donor consent and opting in and out of receiving charity communications; the effectiveness and accessibility of the Mailing and Telephone Preference Services; charities fundraising from people in vulnerable circumstances; the use of scripts by phone fundraising agencies; and the use of enclosures – for example, pens or bookmarks – in direct-mail packs.

The investigation is being undertaken by the FRSB executive team, led by chief executive Alistair McLean, and overseen by its compliance and standards subcommittee, which consists of the members of the FRSB’s board.

McLean said in a statement: "This investigation will look at the specific circumstances that led Olive Cooke to feel overwhelmed by fundraising approaches from charities, but also at the large volume of feedback and complaints we have received from the public over the past week or so."

"This must be a thorough investigation, but we also recognise the need to act quickly in identifying any lessons that can be learned and channelling that information back to the sector, with a view to strengthening charity fundraising practices and building public confidence."

Cooke’s family has said that charities were not to blame for her death, but rather that it was caused by a combination of depression, a lack of sleep and declining health.

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