Now it’s personal; Children’s Society boss Matthew Reed has become the first charity chief to be fingered in the row over the sector’s aggressive marketing methods after an 80-year-old cancer survivor exposed how he had received a letter from him asking for a £100,000 donation.
The Sun on Sunday reported how the Children’s Society had written to pensioner Robert Newman twice in a week asking him to fund a project worker. He told the paper: “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
The letter, signed by Reed, was designed to go out to well-off individuals but instead seems to have gone out to hundreds of people without two half-pennies to rub together.
The mailpack urged Newman to pay £2,777 a month for three years. He said: “Some elderly people who are not on the ball might feel they have to fund something like this. They could feel frightened and pay up. I’d have to sell my house to pay it.”
The charity has put the blame squarely on its direct marketing agency, although has refused to name names. The Children’s Society has worked with a number of agencies, including Vivid Lime and the rather bizarrely named Nonsense, although it is not known if either of these businesses was involved in this campaign.
The charity has also been forced into a grovelling apology.
In a statement, Reed said: “We launched this fundraising initiative in March to raise money to pay for more frontline project workers supporting some of the country’s most vulnerable children.
“We worked together with an agency to identify potential donors with the ability to generously support our work. Unfortunately a number of people were contacted who we had never intended to include.We wholeheartedly apologise to any individuals who were wrongly approached, or who have taken offence at our requests for help.
“Our intention with this high value appeal was to approach well-off individuals with a potential interest in our work, to help fund an additional 160 project workers to support neglected and vulnerable children directly. We are currently reviewing our fundraising activities and relationships with agencies acting on our behalf, to make sure that we learn the lessons from mistakes that were made in this instance.”
To top it off, the charity’s director of communications and policy Lily Caprani told a Parliamentary inquiry into charity marketing back in 2013 that the organisation had stepped away from aggressive fundraising methods because they were less effective.
She told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society & Volunteering: “We aren’t interested in just squeezing money out of anyone who happens by. We want to establish long-term relationships with interested supporters.”
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