Cost of Fundraising Preference Service should be 'significantly reduced', review recommends

The number of people who use the service has declined since it was launched in 2017

The Fundraising Regulator should find a way to “significantly reduce” the cost of the Fundraising Preference Service because the number of users has declined, an evaluation of the service has recommended.

The FPS, which allows people to block communications from specific charities by phone, email, text message and post, was launched by the Fundraising Regulator in 2017, following the fundraising scandals in 2015. 

In February, the regulator commissioned the fundraising consultancy Action Planning to review whether the service was effective and provided value for money, and whether it was still necessary after GDPR came into force in May 2018.

The review report, published today, found the FPS was “reliable” and “generally easy to use”, with a high level of user satisfaction.

But it warned that the use of the FPS was declining; from January to June 2020 there was a weekly average of 26 users making 36 requests. 

Action Planning surveyed and conducted interviews with 172 charities and 55 members of the public who had used the FPS, as well as third sector stakeholders including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Charity Commission, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. 

“Awareness is low and the service is not easy to find through an online search about how to stop charity direct marketing,” the report said. 

It went on to say that most charity dissatisfaction related to the cost of the service compared with the small number of users, causing almost three-quarters of charity respondents to say the service did not provide good value for money.

Only 25 per cent of the charities surveyed believed there was still a need for the service following the introduction of GDPR. 

The report called for the regulator to “seek to significantly reduce the cost of the service by investigating options for a minimal viable set up that is primarily aimed at protecting people in vulnerable circumstances”. 

It also recommended focusing the regulator’s limited marketing budget on ensuring that the service could be found when someone was looking for a way to stop charity marketing, rather than by seeking to raise awareness among the general population.

Almost one-third of people accessing the service were doing so on behalf of someone else, often a vulnerable relative, and 96 per cent of all requests were made through the website.

At present, the site allows people to block communications from up to three charities at a time, but the report said this should be increased to 10.

One of the most common concerns raised by charities was that a large proportion of people who made suppression requests were not actually on the database of the charities in question. The report said the regulator should produce guidance for charities on what to do in this situation.

In a statement, the regulator said it accepted the review’s recommendations.  

Lord Toby Harris, chair of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “The FPS was established three years ago, and we recognise that since then the demands and need for the service have altered. 

“The recommendations outlined in the review provide a significant evidence base from which to make improvements and enhancements to the service.”

He said some of the recommendations would require the regulator to consult and work with the sector, while others were more straightforward to implement. 

“We remain committed to regulating in the public’s interest, in order to protect the trust in fundraising that the sector has worked so hard to build,” he said.


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