Institute of Fundraising to review fundraising requests policy after Olive Cooke case

The move comes after a meeting between the self-regulatory bodies and the charities minister Rob Wilson about the steps to be taken in the wake of the 92-year-old poppy seller's death

Olive Cooke
Olive Cooke

In the wake of the death of the 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke, the Institute of Fundraising will review whether it is easy enough for people to say they do not want to receive requests for donations.

The heads of the self-regulatory bodies for fundraising yesterday met Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, to discuss the action they are taking after Cooke was found dead last month in the Avon Gorge near the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

Several national newspapers claimed that she had been "hounded to death" by charity fundraising requests. Her family said, however, that charities were not to blame for her death.

Wilson met Peter Lewis of the Institute of Fundraising, Alistair McLean of the Fundraising Standards Board and Peter Hills-Jones of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association at the Cabinet Office yesterday to discuss what action they would be taking, but it is understood that a hotline for people to complain about charity fundraising was not discussed.

Despite reports in The Daily Telegraph newspaper today that Wilson had demanded that a hotline be created for elderly and vulnerable people to call if they felt they were receiving too much direct mail from charities, it is understood that this was not the case.

The IoF issued a statement after the meeting saying it planned to review whether it was easy enough for individuals to say they did not want to receive fundraising requests.

It said: "It is important that individuals are able to easily communicate their preferences about what contact they receive from a charity and that the charity respects that decision."

Lewis told Third Sector: "We had a good, constructive meeting in which we set out the next steps. We discussed things such as opt-in and opt-out. We were clear that we and our members were taking this seriously; we’re looking at options, but need to come up with the right changes."

He said that Wilson had appeared supportive of self-regulation and indicated that he understood the procedures the bodies needed to follow.

Asked if Wilson had set the bodies any deadlines, Lewis said: "It’s not up to the minister; it’s self-regulation. We told the minister what our timescales were."

McLean said the FRSB was in the process of producing an interim report on its investigation for consideration by the IoF standards committee to consider at a meeting next Wednesday.

A spokesman for the PFRA said that Hills-Jones had nothing to add on the matter.

A spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said it did not want to give a running commentary on the ins and outs of the meeting.

An inquest into Cooke’s death was opened last month and adjourned until 16 July.

In its leader column this morning, the Daily Mail newspaper called for a single regulator for charity fundraising. It said: "This paper applauds the often hugely valuable work charities do (though we gasp at the exorbitant salaries that too many executives award themselves). But when they resort to bullying and harassing the most generous and vulnerable among us, they must surely be brought into line."

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