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Charities' 'excessive communication' not the right approach – DMA reacts to death of harassed pensioner

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has warned that charities must adapt their marketing approach following the apparent suicide of a 92-year-old pensioner who received an "overwhelming" number of letters and calls asking for donations.

The body of Olive Cooke was recovered by police from the Avon gorge in Bristol last week and friends of the pensioner have since spoken to the media about the "exhausting" requests Cooke received for money from charities.

According to Reuters, she was sent up to 10 letters and subject to several phone calls daily.

Executive director of the DMA Chris Combemale told The Drum that members must behave responsibly and in the best interests of their customers, regardless of the sector they operate in.

"If their customers are vulnerable they must take particular care to avoid intrusive or excessive marketing, and conduct their communication in a consistently responsible manner," he said.

Combemale called excessive communication to exisiting donors "not the right approach" and said that the charitable sector now has to work to rebuild trust from its customers.

"Charity or not, the principle is the same – treat your customers with the respect they deserve. Once this basic principle is forgotten, then the brand, the business, is in trouble," he added.

The case has been referred to the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB), which regulates the charitable sector, and the DMA will now assist the body in its investigation.