Begging Letters & Incentive Gifts

Charity fund raisers annoy their potential donors with unnecessary ‘gifts’ such as pens, printed labels, cards even unwanted badges and lapel items. It is a double whammy of annoyance if some of these items arrive in a begging letter.

Begging Letters

  1. The scourge of begging letters continues despite the establishment in July 2017 of a new Fundraising Preference Service that was set up by the Fundraising Regulator (FR). This new scheme allows individuals to have their names and addresses removed from charity databases. On the FR website you can select up to 3 registered charities at a time to block these communications – cumbersome but better than nothing according to the estimated 10,000 users. Theoretically unsolicited, targeted mailshots should then become a thing of the past. Too late for Olive Cooke the lady who committed suicide in 2015 after receiving thousands of begging letters that she felt some compulsion to respond too.
  2. What of the rest of the iceberg in the form of anonymised mailshots such as ‘Dear Householder’ or magazine inserts of an unaddressed envelope containing a request for financial contributions. The FR believe 250 million such anonymous letters are produced and sent annually. It keeps printers, envelope manufacturers and marketeers in business but is it the business of charities to engage in such a high volume of begging activity. Using sophisticated software even the annonymised letters can be targeted to a post code or even a postman’s walking route where the sender hopes to get a higher response.

Incentive Gifts

  1. Over a third of complaints to FR are about begging letters and unnecessary gifts and incentives. Behind these complaints are the feeling that the money is wasted and should be spent on the charitable purpose.
  2. There is potentially a perverse blackmail element when a ‘charity’ sends you something for nothing you may feel pressured to donate.
  3. Members of the public feel a lack of control over such fundraising approaches. In many cases it acts as a deterrent not an incentive to be involved with that charity.
  4. It is down to a personal choice and the majority are happy to wear a ‘poppy with pride’ but many do not want to be a walking advert wearing a sticky label or affinity badge.
  5. Lord Grade the Chair of the FR has a bit of a thing about ‘plastic pens’ and would like to put a stop to their indiscriminate distribution. Also on his list of fundraising miss selling are intrusive and overly aggressive telephone calls, pressurised legacy seeking, and some texting, emailing and social media methods.(In the worst cases this may include wealth screening, data matching, tele-appending and reuse of public information)


  • Charity provides different strokes for different folks and shouldn’t be micro managed at the expense of missing the major problems such as legality, probity, honesty and integrity.
  • A plastic pen or daffodil is not a big bribe nor to many an appropriate incentive but is it such a big deal.
  • No one is under an obligation to pay for unsolicited mailings of charity cards or personalised address labels.

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