BERWICKSHIRE SWRI ladies are proving there’s a lot more to the organisation nowadays than baking cakes and making jam - by taking the lead in a national campaign to reduce the amount of junk mail sent out by charities.
Concerned that vulnerable people with little money to spare may feel pressurised into giving cash to charity when they receive unsolicited raffle books, pens and other items sent through the post, the SWRI are spotlighting the practice in the run-up to Christmas when many charities step up their efforts to generate cash.
SWRI 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.
At the SWRI national conference earlier this year a motion tabled by Jean Virtue of Cockburnspath SWRI to “deplore the practice” was unanimously passed.
Jean was seconded by Mary McFarlane from Abbey St Bathans, who explained: “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.”
SWRI have contacted the Scottish charity regulator OSCR to see what could be done to clamp down - or stop - charities from sending out unsolicited mail shots, to be told that it is down to individual charities to make that decision.
SWRI national chairman Isobel Robertson said: “The advice from OSCR was that it was a matter that needed to be discussed with the trustees or directors of each individual charity.
“Our advice, therefore, would be for anyone who receives these letters to write back to the charity and state that they want to be removed for their mailing list.
“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 who cannot afford to support these charities, but feel under an immense amount of pressure to do so.”