Preference service working group to recommend 'one last chance'

It will tell the Fundraising Regulator at its board meeting tomorrow that the mooted Fundraising Preference Service should allow charities to make one final contact with supporters who have opted out

Telephone fundraising: recommendations due
Telephone fundraising: recommendations due

The Fundraising Preference Service working group plans to recommend to the Fundraising Regulator that the scheme should enable charities to contact their supporters one final time to ask if they are sure they no longer want to hear from them, Third Sector has learned.

It is understood that the group, which has been working since December on proposals for how the service should work, plans to present a report outlining three options to the regulator at its board meeting on 13 July.

Third Sector understands that the option preferred by the group involves the creation of a service that would ask users to consent to receiving a letter or phone call from charities they already donate to confirming that they no longer want to receive communications from these organisations.

The group, which met for the last time early in June, also plans to recommend that the FPS should apply only to charities whose fundraising activity exceeds a certain volume, which is yet to be determined.

This would mean any charities with high volumes of fundraising activity would have to adhere to the service, including small organisations or those running emergency appeals, despite representatives of both groups expressing concerns about such an approach.

The FPS working group will recommend the establishment of a website that would be the main way for people to register with the service but will say it should also be possible for those who do not have access to the web to sign up by post or telephone.

The second option to be put to the board is for an FPS that does not ask people for consent for their charities to contact them one last time, thereby making it the closest option to the single "reset button" that is understood to be favoured by Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society.

The working group is understood to have concluded that it would be difficult to make such a system work without spending millions of pounds a year because it would require a large and complex database.

The third option is not to have an FPS and to instead require charities to offer all their supporters the option to either opt in or opt out from their communications before engaging in any fundraising activity.

Whichever option is chosen, it is understood that the group will recommend that the system remains in place indefinitely, contrary to the suggestion made in April by George Kidd, the group’s chair, that the FPS might be in place only until 2018.

The report containing the three options has been circulated among the group’s members, who are expected to give their final approval of its contents within days.

Once it has been submitted, it will be up to the Fundraising Regulator, which was launched last week, to decide which system to implement.

A spokesman for the Direct Marketing Association said that John Mitchison, its head of preference services, compliance and legal, did not wish to comment until the working group had handed in its final proposals to the regulator.

A spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said that neither George Kidd, chair of the working group, nor the regulator would be commenting until after the board meeting on 13 July.

After the meeting, he said, the regulator would publish a discussion paper seeking the views on the FPS of the sector and other interested parties.

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