Fundraisers must not call donors who are registered with the Telephone Preference Service unless they have been specifically notified that the person is happy to receive calls, the Institute of Fundraising has said.
The membership body has changed its Code of Fundraising Practice so that telephone fundraisers must no longer make direct marketing calls to Telephone Preference Service and Corporate TPS-registered numbers except where donors tell them this is acceptable.
But the IoF said it was concerned that the rule changes, requested by the Information Commissioner's Office, could unduly restrict the ability of charities to maintain relationships with their supporters; this would have a significant knock-on effect on their incomes, the IoF said.
The IoF said there was a need for further guidance and clarity for charities regarding direct marketing, including the definition of "consent" and what was necessary for consent to be considered valid.
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, said: "It is of course crucial that all charities fundraise according to the law, but we are really concerned about charities not being able to contact individuals who have existing and long-standing relationships with charities – this will have a severe and significant impact on the amount of money charities can raise.
"The rights and privacy of individuals are of fundamental importance, but charities need a proportionate and reasoned regulatory system that does not unduly restrict the ability to raise money."
Representatives from the ICO had told a telephone fundraising summit hosted by the Fundraising Standards Board that fundraisers who called existing donors who were on the TPS were in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and could be subject to enforcement action, including penalties of up to £500,000 in extreme cases.
The updated code says fundraisers must always check telephone numbers against the TPS and the CTPS when intending to call cold donors and should not make marketing calls "under the guise of administrative calls", which are not covered by the privacy regulations. Some organisations have attempted to get around the rules by claiming that their marketing calls – made with the specific purpose of soliciting donations or sales – were made for administrative purposes.
In July, the ICO launched an investigation of potential data and privacy breaches at the now defunct fundraising agency GoGen and at the British Red Cross, Macmillan Cancer Support, the NSPCC and Oxfam. This came after the Daily Mail alleged that GoGen had exploited loopholes in the TPS when working for the charities. The ICO investigation continues.