The family of Olive Cooke have said she would have been very upset to discover that her details were being sold by charities she supported and that she felt distressed and overwhelmed by the volume of letters she was receiving, according to a report from the Fundraising Standards Board.
Cooke, 92, committed suicide in May after suffering from depression, an inquest found last year. Media coverage of her death blamed the volume of charity fundraising approaches she was receiving, which might have been anything up to 3,000 letters a year.
Jessica Dunne, Cooke’s granddaughter, later said charities were not to blame for her death, but a report by the FRSB, published today, says her family "indicated that the cumulative impact of the number of organisations sending direct mail to her led to her feeling distressed and overwhelmed".
The report says: "While Mrs Cooke’s family believe that charities were not responsible for her death, they have confirmed to the FRSB that she was upset by the large number of fundraising approaches she received, particularly through the post."
In a statement to the FRSB, published in today’s report, Cooke’s family say they are grateful there have been changes to charity fundraising practice since her death to prevent elderly and vulnerable people feeling pressurised to give.
"We want Olive to be remembered for her incredibly kind, generous and charitable nature," the statement says. "Far from being a victim, she was a strong believer in the importance of charities in UK society and local communities. She found great comfort in the knowledge that her support could help someone else live a better life."
The statement says Cooke was concerned about the volume of letters and other forms of contact she was receiving from charities, and members of her family says they are sure she would have been "very upset" to know her details were being shared or sold by some charities she had agreed to support.
The statement says the family is pleased that a Fundraising Preference Service will be developed because vulnerable people would be able to stop fundraising approaches in the future.
The FRSB’s report says that only 14 of 99 charities that were corresponding with Cooke gave her consistent opportunities to opt out from receiving future communications.