The Institute of Fundraising is to start work on developing a Direct Mail Code of Fundraising Practice in September.
The new code is expected to include guidelines on the inclusion of incentives - such as pens and umbrellas - in direct mail packs to donors. It will also incorporate updated rules on reciprocal charity mailings, in which charities swap lists of existing donors for use in cold mailing campaigns.
"We want our working party to start with a blank canvas and come up with robust standards that will be suitable for all charities," said Laura Thomas, policy and standards manager at the institute.
"For example, it will consider whether pens in packs really are appropriate, but at the same time we want to make sure the new code is practical and does not stand in the way of innovation."
Members of the institute will be expected to comply with the new code in addition to the Advertising Standards Authority's British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP code) and the Direct Marketing Association's DM Code of Practice.
"We don't want to duplicate those codes, but the Direct Marketing Association's code perhaps does not cover charity fundraising in enough detail," said Thomas. "It's not suitable for all charities, particularly smaller ones that don't have access to it."
Robert Keitch, director of media channel development at the DMA, welcomed the announcement. "We have a vested interest in generating and preserving public confidence in direct mail," he said.
"Although there will inevitably be crossover, new initiatives that are well-planned, considered and drive high standards are all to the good of the industry."
The new code will include relevant standards from the DMA and ASA codes and will highlight legal issues for the use of direct mail.
The institute will invite the sector to comment on the new code during a 12-week consultation period, which is scheduled to start in January 2007.
It is seeking applications by 1 September for the post of chair and for places on the working party from those with experience of direct mail fundraising.