What we know about the Fundraising Preference Service... so far

Susannah Birkwood answers key questions such as how long will it last and how will it affect existing donor sign-ups

George Kidd and John Mitchison
George Kidd and John Mitchison

Q Will all charities be blocked from sending fundraising communications to people on the FPS?

This is still undecided. George Kidd, chair of the working group deciding on the implementation of the FPS, indicated in February that he was not keen on having a model in which people could simply block communications from specific charities they disliked, saying he could not see how such a system would work. But at Third Sector's Fundraising Week conference in April, Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the new Fundraising Regulator, said this was being considered. The regulator will be the body that manages the FPS, although Kidd has said the delivery will probably be taken care of by an external agency with expertise in data security.

Q What about existing supporters who sign up?

Communications with them will probably not be permitted. Kidd said in February: "If someone has come to the preference service, registered their preference and the preference is a complete reset, then whatever opt-ins went on before are frozen." He said he believed such people would clearly have shown they did not want to be contacted from that point onwards.

Q Will the service allow people to remain opted in to certain fundraising channels?

This is looking increasingly unlikely. John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the Direct Marketing Association, which is part of the FPS working group, said at Fundraising Week that the more complexity you put into the FPS the more difficult it would be to transfer it into a fundraising database. "The simplest and most cost-effective way is to just have a reset button that says 'no more mailings', then everybody can use that," Mitchison said.

Q When will the FPS come into force?

Mitchison said at Fundraising Week that it was likely to be another 12 months before the service was up and running, so we're probably talking April 2017.

Q How long will it last for?

Kidd implied at Fundraising Week that it was possible the service would be needed to cover only the period until new EU data protection laws come into force in 2018. If this is so, it might only be in place for a few years. Kidd said there was a fundamental need for the FPS to work alongside the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, but it was unlikely the two regimes would "travel together for a long period of time". He added: "Having a preference service is a transitional product of the world we're in now, which is not opt-in." He said it was possible, "but not certain", that if a person registered with the FPS to opt out of fundraising communications, that registration might last only one or two years. He said this would be unlikely to result in people being inundated with communications after this time because any consents charities would have previously had to contact them would have expired.

Q Will small charities get an exemption?

Mitchison said in April that no organisations were exempt from the other statutory preference services, such as the Telephone Preference Service, which allows people to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales or marketing calls. There was therefore an argument that everyone should comply with the FPS, he said. But he said he realised that small charities could find the cost of complying with the service difficult to bear, so some sort of compromise might be reached.

Q What will the user experience be like?

Kidd says he wants it to have interactive content that makes it clear to people what the consequences of signing up will be. Stephen Dunmore said at Fundraising Week that users could be guided through a series of web pages, offering them different options depending on their needs. The first page might point them to the Telephone Preference Service if they were simply trying to stop receiving unwanted telephone calls.

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