Regulator confirms charity fundraising plans

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Friday 02 December 2016

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The Fundraising Regulator has confirmed its plans for the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS).

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The FPS aims to provide a user-friendly and simple way for the public to manage their contact with charities

The service, which will allow members of the public to more easily control the fundraising communications they receive from charities, is set to be launched in spring or early summer 2017.

The confirmation comes a few months after proposals for the service were released, having been revised to take into account both the regulator’s own further thinking as well as some of the feedback on the proposals from the 131 charities, individuals and organisations that responded.

The service, which was formed in response to a recommendation that came out of a government-commissioned review led last year by Sir Stuart Etherington, aims to provide a user-friendly and simple way for the public to manage their contact with charities.

From the launch date of the FPS, charities will be required to increase their compliance by seeking affirmative consent for contact on a regular basis from donors and supporters.

The opt-out from specified charities will apply to all charities and all forms of communication with a named individual, including addressed mail, email, text and telephone.

The FPS will be an internet-based service, but with a telephone service to support those who are vulnerable or without easy access to the internet. Additionally, the regulator will notify specified charities of those people opting out and monitor compliance, through a largely automated system.

There will also be signposting to the existing Telephone (TPS) and Mail Preference Services (MPS) and accompanying guidance will explain how the public can best manage their contacts with charities.

Opt-out will have the statutory force of a Data Protection Act Section 11 notice to cease direct marketing.

The costs of the FPS will be covered by a levy that will apply to the approximately 2,100 charities spending £100,000 a year or more on fundraising who will be required to sign up to the service. There will be no barrier to smaller charities signing up to use the service, in order to demonstrate their commitment to best practice.

The print impact of the new proposals is most likely to be felt by firms that produce charity mailings, if the proposals have a direct effect on the volume of direct mail being produced. Some industry figures belive that these printers could see their charity mailing volumes increase, rather than fall.

Chair of the Fundraising Regulator Lord Grade said: “We will want to focus in particular on the needs of vulnerable donors and the support they require to opt out from unwanted contacts.

“There is a growing realisation in the sector that appropriate consents need to be put in place and that the wish to opt-out must be respected. We are committed to helping the sector work to the standards expected by the public.

“Once implemented, the FPS will be closely reviewed, including usage, value for money and donor feedback.”

John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the DMA, added: “The proposed solution for the Fundraising Preference Service will certainly facilitate consumer control over the marketing they receive from charities. We have always advocated a customer-centric approach that doesn’t create a significant barrier to the great work charities do.

“In line with our focus on creating a sustainable future for fundraising, it seems to present an accessible solution for all charities. However, we would urge the regulator to ensure the service is robust, easily accessible and, in particular, protects vulnerable consumers.

“The service will create a portal where consumers can easily exercise their right to opt-out of fundraising marketing. In addition, it is vital that charities work within the infrastructure that has long been in place to offer consumers protection through the mailing and telephone preference services, as well as follow the DMA code of conduct that the Etherington report highlighted as a standard all charities should aspire to.”

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