FRSB review puts direct mail in spotlight

Charities are not always following best practice in their use of direct mail, according to Alex Walsh, head of postal affairs for the Direct Mailing Association.

He was commenting on the Fundraising Standards Board's first annual review, Driving Up Standards. Published last week, it revealed that 31 per cent of the 8,434 complaints received between February 2007 and February 2008 were about direct mail. Nearly 22 per cent related to data protection (Third Sector Online, 8 May).

Walsh told Third Sector: "I think sometimes people don't operate exactly to the letter of the codes of practice, but in the end it is counterproductive to continue sending stuff to people if they blatantly don't want it."

He suggested that charities should make it easier for people to opt out of receiving direct mail in future.

On data protection, he said: "There is no suggestion that organisations are using illegal sources of data, but it may be beneficial to explain to donors or potential donors how their names were obtained. People regularly give out their names and addresses and are surprised when something arrives from a charity a year later."

Paul Handley, managing director of direct marketing agency Tangible Response, said poor practice could lead to more donors registering with the Mailing Preference Service. "It will become more and more difficult for organisations to carry out media campaigns," he said.

David Burrows, head of fundraising at marketing firm TDA, said the high number of complaints about direct mail was to be expected. "The objective of any charity that uses direct marketing is to provoke a response," he said. "What inspires one person will irritate another, and there is sometimes a very fine line between a powerful campaign and an offensive one."

Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, welcomed news that face-to-face fundraising accounted for only 13.6 per cent of complaints. "We have been successful at raising quality, so we have reduced the number of complaints over the years," he said.

Overall, most of the complaints were resolved by the charities themselves, at stage one of the FRSB's procedure. Four were dealt with at the second stage by the FRSB and one was taken to adjudication level.

Last week, third sector minister Phil Hope said that, if self-regulation was to work, more organisations would have to join the FRSB.

 

ACTION POINTS

The FRSB has:

Told the Institute of Fundraising and the Information Commissioner about data protection problems and made plans to raise standards

Clarified confusion about the delivery of unaddressed direct mail

Sought guidance on how to approach donors who have given in the past but are now registered with the Telephone Preference Service

Worked to clarify some areas of the Institute of Fundraising's code of practice on telephone fundraising

Discovered that one charity did not comply with a code of practice when it was organising an outdoor event because it was unaware of the relevant code.

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