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The Salvation Army: September 2019

Name and type of organisation: The Salvation Army, a Christian church and charity

Fundraising method: addressed mail

Code themes examined: supporter data, fundraising communications and techniques

Code breach? Yes

The complaint

The complainant informed us that on 3 April 2018 they had used the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) to request that the Salvation Army (the charity) stop sending their mother direct marketing.

The complainant told us that, despite this request, their mother had since received further mailings from the charity.

What happened?

The complainant contacted us as their mother continued to receive mailings from the Salvation Army despite completing a Fundraising Preference Service request asking them to stop. The complainant provided evidence and stated that this was the third letter received since the FPS request.

After verifying the request on the FPS system, we contacted the Salvation Army to request information to assist with the investigation. The Salvation Army subsequently confirmed that it had undertaken an internal review. This investigation revealed that the charity had received the request but not had updated its records till sometime after.

The charity apologised for this “unacceptable oversight”. It explained that despite acting on the request, the delay meant that the name had not been removed from a planned mailing already in process. A third further letter was then sent due to human error.

Our decision

We have found that the Salvation Army failed to update its records with the complainant’s mother’s details until two months after the suppression request was made. This delay caused their mother to receive two mailings from the charity that she should not have.

We also found that the charity failed to remove the complainant’s mother’s details, as well as the details of 82 other individuals, from a further mailing list sent nearly a year later. This meant that Salvation Army continued to send direct marketing to these individuals against their wishes. Based on this, the Salvation Army was in breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice as they failed to properly manage data within its records.

Recommendations

As a result of the action already undertaken by the Salvation Army (outlined below), and its commitment to undertake further system checks in the future, we have not made any recommendations.

Outcome

The Salvation Army is improving its internal data management processes. For example, the charity will ensure its mailing lists are accurate by updating marketing data weekly with FPS suppressions. Only experienced members of staff are now able to collate mailing lists.