Data sharing 'overwhelmed' Olive Cooke, FRSB finds | Data sharing 'overwhelmed' Olive Cooke, FRSB finds | DMA

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Data sharing 'overwhelmed' Olive Cooke, FRSB finds


Personal information about Olive Cooke had been widely shared by charities, causing her to feel 'overwhelmed' according to the final report into her death by the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB)

Olive Cooke, a lifelong charity fundraiser and supporter from Bristol, took her own life on May 6 2015, aged 92.

It was subsequently learned that Mrs Cooke had been a frequent target of fundraising appeals, receiving around six separate appeals every day which caused her to feel 'overwhelmed'.

According to the FRSB report, "The FRSB’s investigation commenced on 18th May 2015 after the media reported links between Mrs Cooke’s death and the high volume of fundraising approaches she received. (Mrs Cooke’s family later stated that charities had nothing to do with her death, but that she had indeed been distressed by the high number of approaches she was receiving from charities, particularly in the post)," it reads.

Mrs Cooke was a generous supporter of charities, donating to at least 88 during her lifetime.

Of the 1,442 charities that participated in the FRSB’s investigation, 99 had Mrs Cooke’s details on file. 19 began contacting her prior to the year 2000 and a further 80 charities began corresponding with her since 2000, with 32 charities initiating contact in the past five years.

According to the report, 24 - a quarter - of the charities that carried Mrs Cooke's details passed those details on.

Of those charities, "21 of these confirmed they had permission to share her details but in virtually all cases this permission was ‘assumed’ and based on the fact that Mrs Cooke had not proactively opted out of data sharing," reads the report.

In addition,

  • 70 charities obtained Mrs Cooke's personal details from third parties such as another charity or through a commercial data broker
  • 16 of the 99 charities failed to provide Mrs Cooke with any opportunity to opt out of further communications
  • 56 charities required Mrs Cooke to proactively contact them if she wished to opt out
  • Only 14 charities consistently provided an opt out ‘tick box’ to allow Mrs Cooke to easily stop receiving mailings

According to Andrew Hind, Chair of the Fundraising Standards Board, "Mrs Cooke’s experience demonstrates the inevitable consequences of a fundraising regime where charities have been willing to exchange or sell the personal details of donors to each other, and to commercial third parties. But Mrs Cooke was not alone. Her experiences were echoed in the many complaints that the FRSB received following her death.”

DMA MD Rachel Aldighieri said, "This report shows that charities routinely failed to consider their donors. The charitable sector is in a curious position because it has often been at arm’s length to the rest of the economy. The events of the summer mean that this can no longer be the case. Fundraising is to charities what marketing is to business and trust in fundraising needs to be rebuilt.

"The only way of doing this is by charities putting their customers – the donors – at the heart of everything they do, which is the key principle of the DMA Code," she said.

The events of the summer have led to the estabilshment of a new Fundraising Regulator, led by Lord Grade. Chief Commissioner at the DMC, George Kidd, has been appointed to chair the estabilshment of a Fundraising Preference Service (FPS), designed to make it easier for consumers to opt out of charity findraising.

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