Pick-and-choose model unlikely for Fundraising Preference Service, says George Kidd

Kidd at yesterday's event
Kidd at yesterday's event

The chair of the working group on the implementation of the new Fundraising Preference Service has for the first time indicated that the service is unlikely to adopt a model in which people could simply block communications from specific charities they disliked.

George Kidd, who is also chair of the Direct Marketing Commission, was speaking a forum on fundraising regulation hosted by the Institute of Fundraising and the Small Charities Coalition in London on Thursday. After the event, he told Third Sector that he could not see how such a system would work.

The alternative is for the FPS to adopt a model in which all charities are blocked from sending fundraising communications to people who sign up.

Kidd told delegates at the event that charities with pre-existing relationships with supporters who signed up to the FPS would not be able to send these people fundraising communications.

"If someone has come to the preference service and registered their preference and the preference is a complete reset, then whatever opt-ins went on before are frozen," he said. "That person has said: ‘From this point forward I do not want to do certain things.’"

Asked by an audience member if charities would be able to write to any supporters who signed up to the FPS to ask if they realised they would no longer receive fundraising communications, Kidd said he was not convinced this was the right approach to take.

But he said that if someone wanted to support a charity after signing up with the service, the charity in question would be able to communicate with them as long as they could prove to the regulator – in case there were any future complaints from that person – that they had obtained consent after that person had registered with the FPS.

He said that charities would be able to communicate with existing supporters (such as those who have set up direct debits) who have signed up to the FPS, but only for administrative purposes.

Kidd said the working group was exploring how the FPS would be publicised and wanted to find an equivalent to the way that utilities companies signposted their ombudsman service on their bills and invoices.

Asked by Third Sector if the regulator would consider establishing an FPS but then allow charities to flout Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Service rules because some claim that most TPS and MPS users do not object to receiving charity communications, Kidd said this was unlikely to be an option because it would mean breaking the law.

Stephen Dunmore, interim chief executive of the new regulator, who also spoke at the event, confirmed to Third Sector that the consultant Gerald Oppenheim had been appointed as interim head of policy at the fledgling organisation for a six-month period.

Oppenheim, who is chair of trustees at the Camden Society, served as director of policy and partnerships at the Big Lottery Fund when Dunmore was chief executive there.

Oppenheim, Dunmore and Sir Stuart Etherington, whose review of the self-regulation of fundraising led to the establishment of the new regulator, also worked together on a panel set up in 2012 to select the charities that would benefit from donations made through cash machines.

Dunmore told delegates at the event that the new regulator would have the power to investigate and take action against any charity that was the subject of a complaint about its fundraising, regardless of whether the organisation had registered with the regulator or paid a levy to help fund it.

He said the regulator would announce its new board members within the next fortnight and soon after this it would set up a fundraising practice committee, which would administer the Code of Fundraising Practice, and a complaints committee, which would handle complaints from the public.

After this, he said, it would consider setting up a consumer advisory panel to draw on the views of the public.

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