Despite the fears of some in the fundraising sector that a preference service could severely affect the number of potential supporters to which charities could market, the two charities’ submissions to PACAC’s ongoing inquiry into call centre fundraising both expressed support for a central "opt-out" database that would allow donors to opt out of receiving communications from all charities.
Sir Stuart Etherington’s review of the self-regulation of fundraising, published on Wednesday, recommended the creation of a new Fundraising Preference Service, which would enable people to opt out from all telephone and mail fundraising.
Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, described the service as one of the more controversial proposals in the review this week. But CRUK, whose executive director of fundraising and marketing, Richard Taylor, is also chair of the IoF, said in its evidence – submitted in August and published this month – that it proposed a "charity preference mechanism" be set up for telephone calls.
"This would introduce a charities suppression file so it is clear when the public don’t want to be contacted by charities unless they have specifically opted in to marketing communications," CRUK’s submission said.
Oxfam also appeared to advocate this system, saying in its evidence that it supported the work the IoF was doing on the possibility of a central opt-out database for donors.
It said individual donors who gave to a number of charities could find themselves receiving a large number of requests for further support even if each respective charity had appropriate policies in place that were rigorously followed.
Oxfam said in its submission that the swapping of donors’ data among charities or with other organisations could inadvertently create a higher volume of solicitations, through direct mail, to generous charity donors and therefore should be stopped.
It said it was seeking to include clauses in its contracts with agencies so that if a new supporter was to cancel their regular gift within a few months of starting, the agency would not be paid. It said this would create a disincentive for the agency to persuade people to sign up if they did not really want to give to Oxfam.
CRUK said that there was currently no coordinated or unified voice in the charity sector that supported the principles of self-regulation and made a positive case for fundraising.
It urged the IoF to produce an annual document that outlined "best fundraising practice", which it said could act as a checklist over and above the standards set in the code for chief executives and trustees to consider.
Meanwhile, Save the Children’s evidence, which was also published this month, said that one way of give the fundraising regulator more effective sanctions would be for the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill currently going through parliament to include provisions to enforce the Charities Act 1992. The 1992 act contains criminal sanctions that could be applied to professional fundraisers and commercial participators, the charity said, noting that these had never been enforced in practice.