Cancer Research UK returns to telephone fundraising after allegations of donor harassment

Charity completes review as telemarketing agency Pell & Bales denies accusations

Cancer Research UK will recommence its telephone fundraising operations on 9 October after completing a review prompted by allegations that its fundraisers put undue pressure on prospective donors.

The charity suspended its telemarketing campaign on 17 September after it was alleged that a caller had responded by saying "brilliant" when a woman told him she had cancer.

It was also alleged that a former trainee caller was asked to target people who had cancer and was reprimanded for not pressing a partially disabled 92-year-old woman for money.

Natasha Hill, director of supporter marketing at CRUK, said the charity had conducted a thorough review of its two telemarketing agencies - Pell & Bales and GoGen - and their practices, "with a particular focus on training and additional coaching to help with listening skills and empathy for people in difficult circumstances".  

Hill said the review would help to improve and inform the charity's new telemarketing strategy.

"In particular, we have taken additional steps to ensure that the public do not misconstrue our approach to be pressuring or insensitive," she said.  

Pell & Bales issued a statement saying it strongly denied the allegations, made by a former employee to the Daily Mirror.

"We find the actions of this ex-employee deeply disappointing and are disheartened to see these uncorroborated and false stories damaging the fundraising efforts of UK charities," it said.

"We have not and do not encourage or manage our fundraising staff to bully or pester people into supporting their chosen charitable organisations. The further allegation that we are in some way able to target people with cancer is totally untrue."

The statement added that Pell & Bales would work with CRUK to review all scripts used to "avoid the fundraising efforts of the telephone programme being misconstrued in this way again".

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