Rural Institutes against 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 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 which are sent through the post.

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.

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

SWRI launched its 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 – some 20,000 across Scotland from Shetland to Wigtownshire – to simply return the mail to sender.

Following the conference, SWRI contacted the Scottish charity regulator OSCR to investigate what could be done to clamp down - or stop - charities from sending out unsolicited mail shots. However, OSCR says 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 all over the country who cannot afford to support these charities, but feel under an immense amount of pressure to do so.”

More information on the SWRI can be found at www.swri.org.uk, or by calling SWRI headquarters in Edinburgh on 0131 225 1724 or email swri@swri.demon.co.uk