CRUK fundraising chief Ed Aspel backs Fundraising Preference Service

In an interview carried in this month's Third Sector, he says the reset button has a place

Ed Aspel
Ed Aspel

Ed Aspel, executive director of fundraising and marketing at Cancer Research UK, has become the first charity fundraising director to come out in public support of a Fundraising Preference Service.

Aspel, who succeeded Richard Taylor, chair of the Institute of Fundraising, at CRUK in September, told Third Sector he was in favour of the proposed establishment of an FPS, which would enable people to opt out of all telephone and mail fundraising communications.

"From what I’ve heard, there needs to be a reset button so that those who are vulnerable or being inundated by fundraising communications can press it," he said. "That seems perfectly reasonable to me.

"If I am a supporter of charities and I’m getting mail or telephone calls from a whole series of different charities, what one or two charities do in terms of changing their practices and the frequency they contact people is not going to make a lot of difference – I’m still going to feel like I get a lot of contact.

"So I understand that charities would prefer a system where you just stop hearing from the charities you don’t want to hear from but for some people, who are really inundated, the reset button probably has a function."

Aspel acknowledged that some smaller charities with lower brand awareness than CRUK, which has been the UK’s largest fundraising charity for at least the past five years, might object to the FPS because they might then be less likely to receive donations from people who use the service than charities such as his. But he said this still did not mean the FPS should not go ahead.

He also admitted that the FPS could lead to odd things happening, such as some charities and fundraising agencies increasing the amount of unaddressed junk mail they send out.

Aspel said he would not be able to calculate the effect the FPS would have on CRUK’s fundraising until the details of how it would work were confirmed.

He said the service – which is expected to block charities from sending fundraising requests rather than beneficiary communications, for example – could lead charities to include fundraising asks on less of the materials they send out.

Aspel said CRUK would be providing feedback to the working group led by George Kidd, a board member of the new Fundraising Regulator. He said he was not aware of other fundraising directors who shared his views.

His comments develop the support CRUK expressed for a system similar to the FPS in written evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee last September. The charity said it believed a "charity preference mechanism" should be set up just for telephone calls so it would be clear when the public did not want to be contacted.

The FPS has attracted significant criticism from within the sector and beyond. Russell Benson, community and events manager at the MS Society, said in a personal capacity last week that the service was a way of "stopping people from hearing about society’s problems" and from feeling guilt.

In a presentation about charity fundraising, made at University College London on 24 February, he said the effect on donations could slow the progress being made in a number of cause areas, including potentially slowing down cancer survival rates.

Research released on the same day by the polling company YouGov showed that almost three-quarters of the public believe the establishment of the FPS could help restore trust in the sector.

To read the full interview with Ed Aspel, see this month’s Fundraising Good Practice.

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