The daughter of a mentally ill woman who donated £16,000 to the veterinary charity the PDSA before she died has called publicly for the charity to return the money.
Tracey Wheatley of south London told the Daily Mail that her mother, Pamela Wheeler, who had paranoid schizophrenia, made the donations to the charity in envelopes containing thousands of pounds in cash that she would hand over the counter at her local PDSA veterinary hospital.
Wheeler was found dead in her flat in south-east London in 2012. She had been tied up and her safe was open, suggesting she had been the victim of a burglary. The murder has not been solved.
On one occasion, Wheeler reportedly gave the charity £1,500 in the morning and a further £1,020 later in the day. The largest single donation was for £5,000 in June 2011, according to the Mail.
The PDSA said it had no plans to return the money, referring to an investigation that was conducted by the Fundraising Standards Board in March 2014, which dismissed a complaint by one of Wheeler’s children that the charity had taken advantage of their mother. The complainant had requested at the time that the donations be returned.
The FRSB concluded the following month that the PDSA had not placed undue pressure on the woman and that she had a long-standing relationship with the charity, which meant the donations were not out of character.
It urged the Institute of Fundraising to review its Code of Fundraising Practice in relation to fundraising from older and vulnerable people; as a result, the IoF announced in December that it had added a rule to its code – and accompanying guidance – that takes into account the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances.
A spokesman for the PDSA told Third Sector that he suspected Wheatley had renewed her calls for the charity to return the money because the extensive coverage in the national media of charities in the wake of the death of Olive Cooke meant that it was a "good time to bash charities".
A spokesman for the PDSA also said in a statement: "As a charity, we review and update our fundraising activities on a continuous basis to ensure they not only conform to all current and updated guidelines from industry bodies, but also meet the highest ethical standards. We take our responsibilities very seriously and engage all of our supporters in a sensitive and considerate manner.
"This also means we respect their decision to donate to our charity and ensure that any money freely given to us is put towards the cause they have chosen to support."