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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 March 2007, 15:06 GMT
Members' dismay at charity deals
By Bob Howard
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

A man on the telephone
Fundraisers say they have been receiving unwanted sales calls
A top charity has been criticised by some members for passing their details to companies who "cold call" them.

The Royal British Legion has tie ups with companies selling things such as funeral plans and breakdown cover.

Legion members in Spain say the membership form did not make it clear that they would be contacted.

The Legion says members who do not want to be contacted can tick the appropriate boxes on the form but it will now review how they are laid out.

Deirdre Stewart is one of more than 1,000 Legion members living in Spain.

She said she had clearly ticked a box when she renewed her Royal British Legion membership which said she did not want to be contacted by associated companies, although the Legion disputes that.

Deirdre said she was called by AXA Breakdown as a result of a link it has with the Legion. She feels her privacy has been invaded.

If they are so hard up for a pound, then put up the membership fee, but don't sell us
Deirdre

"To me it is offensive that "we will remember them" means that the Royal British Legion would even consider selling their names, addresses and telephone numbers of their relatives," she told the programme.

"If they are so hard up for a pound, then put up the membership fee, but don't sell us."

Deirdre is so incensed, she has even written to the Queen and the Privy Council.

Vulnerable

Mike Ives belongs to the same branch as Deirdre.

He has received a call from the Spanish office of another Legion associated company called Avalon which sells funeral plans.

Mike said it has left ex servicemen and their families feeling vulnerable.

"The Legion is there to assist ex army, ex navy and we do live in a society where terrorists do exist," he said.

"If it's easy for them to get my home address, which I assume it would be, then you must think you could possibly be targeted."

The Legion said it has not and never would sell its members details but that it does get a commission on every sale the partner companies make.

We will certainly review the application form and make sure people can understand it
Russell Thompson, Royal British Legion
Nevertheless, Russell Thompson, the director of Fund Raising and Marketing at the Legion, said the charity will review its annual membership renewal forms.

"We serve something like four million ex service men and women and their dependents bring it up to 10 million, so we need to continue to raise this amount of money," he told the programme.

"We respect all members of the Royal British Legion and we also respect their privacy.

"We will certainly review the application form and make sure people can understand it and they know what they're opting into or indeed opting out of."

The Charity Commission told Money Box unless a charity breaks the law, it is up to the organisation's trustees to decide the methods it uses to fundraise.

But it said charities should have regard to the views of their supporters, donors, members and beneficiaries in the way they operate.

One example of best practice, it said, would be asking members to opt in, rather than out of schemes or revising forms to make the options more prominent.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 3 March 2007 at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 4 March at 2102 GMT.



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