Institute of Fundraising unhappy with 'one-last-chance' plan

The Fundraising Regulator has recommended that charities should be allowed to contact people who sign up to the Fundraising Preference Service one last time to clarify their intentions

The Institute of Fundraising has criticised the Fundraising Regulator’s plan to allow charities to contact supporters who sign up to the Fundraising Preference Service one final time, saying this could be costly for charities and lead to a worse experience for supporters.

The final proposals published yesterday by the regulator confirmed that it had accepted a recommendation from its working group, first reported last month in Third Sector, that the FPS should enable charities to contact their supporters one final time to ask if they are sure they no longer wanted to be contacted.

Responding to the proposals, Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, said the membership body had concerns about the administrative burden and cost that this would place on charities, particularly smaller and medium-sized ones.

He said the proposal should be considered carefully to ensure that it did not result in a poor experience for supporters, who might receive several similar communications within a short timescale.

The regulator’s plan is to allow fundraising organisations to write to people who register with the FPS within 28 days to clarify their intentions. They will also be allowed to telephone them as long as the individual is not registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

Fluskey also expressed concern about the lack of detail given by the regulator about its definition of fundraising communications.

The regulator said yesterday that the FPS model would include a definition of what a fundraising communication was, "based on communications where the core purpose is to raise funds," and the service would not apply to communications that did not fall into this bracket.

The FPS working group, which also published its recommendations yesterday, defined such communications as those a "reasonable person" would see as communications where the purpose was to raise funds, saying that this was narrower than the Information Commissioner’s definition of direct marketing.

"The additional financial burden for charities should also be looked at," said Fluskey. "Many charities will find it hard to pay additional costs."

Here, Fluskey was referring to the regulator’s confirmation yesterday that the running costs of the FPS should be met by those charities that use the service, which will be all those spending £100,000 or more a year on fundraising.

The regulator also drew criticism from the charity law specialist firm Withers about its plan to ask a small proportion of fundraising charities to pay a levy to fund it.

Chris Priestley, a partner at Withers, said the regulator was taking too narrow an approach by asking only 2,111 charities – about 1 per cent of the sector – to pay towards its costs.

In a paper setting out the arrangements for the levy, the regulator said yesterday that it had taken this approach because six in every ten complaints received by the Fundraising Standards Board, its predecessor, related to the 1 per cent of charities with voluntary incomes of more £10m.

Priestley said that although this might be the case, it would nevertheless have been a good idea to increase the number of charities that had "skin in the game" by making contributions towards the levy run on a proportional basis.

"Charities who have to pay the levy can be expected to be more invested in the success of the Fundraising Regulator and, much more importantly, it will raise the profile of the Fundraising Regulator and, crucially, the Code of Fundraising Practice," he said.

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