The Fundraising Preference Service: a look at digital opportunities and challenges

With little clarity on how the service will apply online, Kirsty Marrins examines the potential challenges for charities' digital strategies

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

Following Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of fundraising self-regulation, a Fundraising Preference Service has been set up that will allow the public to opt out of all telephone and direct mail fundraising from charities.

Throwing up more questions than an episode of Mastermind, there is genuine concern from the sector as to what this actually means and how it would work in practice. Given that the focus is on direct mail and telephone fundraising - as yet there is no clarity on whether the FPS will apply to online – let’s take a look at three digital opportunities and their subsequent challenges the FPS presents.

Social media

If we assume that large numbers of the public may opt out using that giant ‘no communications from all charities’ button (particularly as they may not understand the true implication), charities will need to rely more and more on social media to reach and engage their supporters. This will mean that charities will have to improve at explaining what they do and what their impact is, succinctly.

However it’s imperative that charities do not replace direct mail or telephone fundraising with social media, where it becomes a channel just to ask for money. Fundraising is not just about the ask, it’s about the build up to the ask and how the charity presents itself and the bigger picture. The opportunity here is for charities to develop their storytelling skills, to invest in more resource for their social channels, build up a dynamic bank of case studies and become part of the conversation.

We know that viral campaigns such as #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge are impossible for charities to replicate, but there is real value in encouraging your supporters and fundraisers to produce user-generated content to help your cause.

The challenge will be finding the money and or time to invest more in social media, nurturing supporters, developing stories as well as upskilling staff (or volunteers) to use social media effectively - to understand its true potential and how it could work for their particular charity.


Assuming (and for now we can only assume) that email opt in will overrule FPS opt out, charities will need to up their game when it comes to email. Like writing for social media, writing for email is a skill and charities need to invest time into testing what works for their audience. Engagement through email is much stronger than social media – on average click-through rates on email is around 3% whilst on social media it’s around 0.5% so it pays to spend time crafting your emails carefully.  

The challenge will be in ensuring your emails are mobile optimised (considering how many people read their emails on their mobile phone), succinct, inspiring and that metrics are in place to measure success.


Your website is your shop window and it’s here where people will look for information, support and advice. The introduction of the FPS means that your website needs to work harder than ever to convert people into supporters. User journeys, donation form optimisation, content and SEO will be key. Are your Donate buttons and calls to action prominent and clear? Is your Donate page inspiring and fit for purpose? Does it have a great image, clear donation asks and an explanation of how money donated will be spent?

The challenge, particularly for smaller charities, will be the technical side of understanding user journeys and how to improve them as well as how to optimise the donation process to make it as frictionless as possible to donate.

There’s no doubt that the implementation of a Fundraising Preference Service will be challenging and there will be a huge financial impact to many charities. However, as with all challenges there are always opportunities and now’s the time to invest more in digital.

Kirsty Marrins has been working in the charity sector since 2007 and is a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition

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