I have spent a lot of time since returning writing to over 50 charities on behalf of my Grandma. I recently discovered she has been sending donations going into hundreds of pounds per month in response to an ever-increasing deluge of mail coming through her door. For those new to this blog, my Grandma has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Of course, the more you donate to charity, the more mail you get. And I have been surprised, really shocked in fact, at the tenacity of some of the campaigns. At least one organisation I discovered is under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority. But even charities I considered well-known and reputable are using what I would describe as questionable tactics for extracting donations.
The worst ones are the fake memos sent by supposed secretaries to heads of charities, marked urgent, and then 'copied in' to the recipient in the mailout.
Or the ones enclosing 'secret' documents revealing ambitious project plans.
Or the truly dreadful 'written for you' replies saying 'Dear charity, thank you so much for my free umbrella. I realise how important your work is (blah blah) and so I enclose a donation of (amount already circled for you, say £25? how convenient)...
They must be aware that many of the people who donate by post are elderly.
In my Grandma's case, she is now at the stage where we have had to get joint Enduring Power of Attorney. And so, with the realisation that money much needed to pay for her future care is being given away, has come the need for intervention. It has been a marathon, but a necessary one because I also discovered that simply informing the Mailing Preference Service won't bring about a quick solution. It does stamp out most unwanted mail in the end but it takes weeks.
We needed action to be immediate. It has felt uncomfortable asking these charities not to write again, but I decided to leave in place any standing orders or direct debits to charities my Grandma set up before her judgement became impaired.
And now we get to the question of autonomy. This has been my first act as attorney. It feels both wrong and right. I feel uncomfortable about making a decision about who my Grandma chooses to donate her money to, but I feel it is right to combat the often manipulative and wheedling mailings that are landing on her doormat daily.
I am going to complain about at least 10 charities to the Advertising Standards Authority. I just can't believe the methods used to get donations. And I feel sad and angry that my Grandma has been lost in a fog of confusion over which charity to give to, which cheque to write, to the point that she just started giving to all of them.