Code comes down on guilt and shock

Guilt-driven marketing, incentives and the use of shocking images are some of the issues covered in the draft of the Institute of Fundraising's code of practice for direct mail.

The eight-page draft, which is currently being reviewed by the institute’s standards committee before the board of trustees gives it the green light for publication, includes paragraphs on decency, shock tactics, honesty, transparency, environmental issues and the use of questionnaires and enclosures.

The details were revealed at the institute’s direct marketing and fundraising conference on Wednesday during a panel session run by Nick Brooks, chair of the standards committee.

The draft says charities need to demonstrate the purpose of any enclosures they send and should not generate donations by making people feel guilty. It also says direct mail should not cause embarrassment to recipients or inconvenience them.

Panel member Mike Wade, head of central fundraising at WaterAid, said the code should distinguish between straight incentives, such as umbrellas, and ‘involvement devices’ that help people to understand a cause, such as Help the Aged’s clouded plastic pieces, designed demonstrate the effect of cataracts on vision.

The draft also says an organisation must be able to justify the use of shocking images and words in material sent to the public and that their use must not be gratuitous or exaggerated, because this could undermine the sector as a whole.

Organisations should be particularly careful about using shock tactics in cold mailings, put warnings on packs that contain shocking content and refrain from using shocking images on envelopes because mail could fall into the hands of children, the draft says.

It adds that, in order to be transparent and honest, charities should not send out questionnaires purely as fundraising devices and that the purpose of any questionnaires should be made clear to the recipients.

Megan Pacey, director of policy and campaigns at the institute, said: “The code is intended to prove that self-regulation is working and that we don’t have to go down a legislative route.”

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