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New rules to restrict sharing of data amongst charities in wake of Olive Cooke suicide

The Fundraising Standards Board has launched an investigation into opt-ins following the suicide of 92 year old Olive Cooke.

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28 May 2015 / by National Accident Helpline Communications / legal-and-consumer-news

Charities in the UK could require clear donor opt-ins before sharing contact details with other organisations in the wake of the suicide of 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke. Mrs Cooke’s body was found in the Avon Gorge earlier this month after she jumped to her death.

Her family have said that the hundreds of letters and phone calls she received from charity organisations were not the cause of the war widow’s death and that she was suffering with depression at the time; however, the Fundraising Standards Board has since launched an investigation into how the details of donors are shared among charities.

Mrs Cooke, who had spent 76 years of her life fundraising for the Royal British Legion, had set up as many as 27 direct debits to various causes and received as many as 267 begging letters in a single month, while towards the end of her life she was also ignoring calls from family members, such was the intensity of the cold calls she received.

Kevin King, Mrs Cooke’s grandson, said: “I heard they were passing her number around saying 'this person is really generous, give this number a try'. She was being pestered all the time. It was like they were trying to milk her."

Currently anyone who donates to a charity has their contact details shared automatically, unless they specifically opt out, and Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, has said that ‘lessons can be learned’ from the tragedy.

"One focus of our investigations will be around consent, which will include the issues connected with opting in or out of being contacted by other organisations [when providing contact details to a charity]," he said.

"There will definitely be a lot of change, but we need to get this right as it's a complex area and charities need to be able to reach out to people."

At National Accident Helpline we have campaigned strongly against cold calling, launching our Stop Nuisance Calls initiative last year. Check out our advice on reporting nuisance marketing to find out what you should do if you’re being pestered by unsolicited calls, texts or emails.

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