Call for end to charity “junk mail”

ONE OF Scotland’s largest women’s organisations is calling on the public to support its bid to stop charities sending out ‘junk mail’.

Members of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes (SWRI) fear that vulnerable people with little money to spare could feel pressurised into giving cash to charity when they receive unsolicited raffle books, pens and other items sent through the post.

Members are also concerned that good causes could also lose out as sending unsolicited mail shots could open the door to unscrupulous individuals who are prepared to pocket donations intended for charity.

The women’s group has turned the spotlight on the practice in the run-up to Christmas, when many charities will be stepping up their efforts to generate cash and people may feel under increased pressure to donate.

SWRI members launched their drive earlier this year when a motion calling on members to deplore the practice was unanimously passed at its national conference. Now the group is urging its members, around 20,000 across Scotland from Shetland to Wigtownshire, to return the mail to sender.

The motion was tabled by Jean Virtue of Cockburnspath SWRI in Berwickshire, and seconded by Mary McFarlane of Abbey St Bathans SWRI.

Mrs McFarlane said: “We have heard how upset people can become when they receive these begging letters. This doesn’t just apply to elderly people but also to vulnerable people, and they are being encouraged to give when sometimes they really can’t afford it.

“We all like to support charities, but we must make it fairer. The charities must take responsibility for this. Why can’t they include a free postal reply for people to send back stating that they do not want to receive these letters?

“The charities are also at risk of losing money as they have no way of knowing that these raffles books are not being sold and the money kept. The charities must be making every attempt not to encourage fraudulent activity.”

The SWRI also contacted the Scottish charity regulator OSCR to investigate what could be done to clamp down or stop charities from sending out unsolicited mail shots. The OSCR has said it is up to individual charities to make that decision.

Isobel Robertson, SWRI national chairwoman, said that as the issue has to be discussed with the trustees or directors of each individual charities, recipients should make contact to ask to be removed from their mailing lists.

She said: “We feel disappointed that there is nothing more that can be done, but if enough people make it clear that this type of mail is not wanted or appreciated, it will send a loud and clear message. We feel genuinely sorry for our members and other vulnerable people all over the country who cannot afford to support these charities, but feel under an immense amount of pressure to do so.”