Cash-starved health charities get aggressive

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The Independent Online
HEALTH charities facing a cash crisis are becoming aggressive in their campaigning for money, writes Shobhan Saxena.

In one case, Margaret Gritton, who joined the National Osteoporosis Society recently, received a letter written by former Carry On film star Pat Coombs seeking money for the society. It detailed Ms Coombs's suffering and is said to have frightened many new members such as Ms Gritton - while the NOS raised pounds 62,000.

Linda Edwards of NOS commented: "It was a mistake to send that letter to some new members but it was a part of a bigger package which gives very valuable and balanced information." While denying using shock tactics, she has been phoning the new members urging them not to panic.

A Unison survey reported in March that voluntary organisations were facing cash cuts leading to reduced services.

Last week, the head of the Cancer Research Campaign, Gordon McVie, caused controversy by saying that too many cancer charities were competing for funds, affecting research work and confusing the public.

Richard Cordon of the Charity Commission says it is becoming tougher to raise money. "Fund-raising has become competitive and the charities have to try more innovative campaigns. Not all charities get enough money from the Government and they have to raise their own.''

Peter Belchamer of the Muscular Dystrophy Group said: "We do not have any financial problems but we have to put in more effort and more initiative to get funds." However, his charity did not use shock tactics, he said.

But such tactics are around. "We get regular complaints, though small in number, from people about the manner in which some charities raise funds," Mr Cordon said. "People are quite sensitive about the way the charities collect money." They expected sensitivity from the charities andsaw them as different from commercial organisations.