Institute of Fundraising: Growth of TPS registration means best practice is vital

Andrew Watt, head of policy and standards and the deputy chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising

As we draw nearer to Christmas and charitable donations become front of mind for even the most Scrooge-like among the UK public, how will the telephone preference service (TPS) regulations affect those charities hoping to tap in to the season of goodwill through telephone fundraising?

This means of fundraising has long been used as a medium to recruit new donors, to develop relationships and to contact corporate supporters, raising millions of pounds of voluntary sector income each year.

TPS registration is growing all the time and will undoubtedly affect charities' telephone fundraising capabilities. What are the best practice methods that allow charities to continue fundraising in this way, while acting within the regulatory guidance?

A recent meeting between the Information Commissioner and the Institute addressed exactly this issue. The basic guidance is that charities should ensure they get consent from new donors at the beginning of the relationship.

When collecting initial information from donors, charities need to consider carefully the wording (on donor forms and in telephone scripts) of donor consent. Charities need to make it clear to donors how they might be contacted by the charity, and donors should be able to inform the charity how they wish to be contacted. Telephone calls do not have to be recorded, but it is crucial that the script should include a request for the donor's consent.

When recruiting new donors, charities should not 'cold call' potential donors who are registered for TPS. With regard to existing donors, where it may be unclear whether a donor wishes to be contacted via a particular medium because of the collection of consent data in the past, charities need to make their own judgement as to whether the donor would be likely to object to contact, based on the nature of the existing relationship.

However, when fundraisers contact those donors, they should ask whether they are happy to be contacted in this way and should act immediately upon any objection.

If an existing donor subsequently registers with TPS, this registration should not override a previous consensual arrangement with a charity.

This means that if a charity judges it has a current, warm relationship with a donor, it can safely ignore TPS registration.

As for the Corporate Telephone Preference Service, this is still relatively new but, principally, the same best practice guidance would apply.

The Institute of Fundraising will be working to revise the current Telephone Fundraising Code - once it is fully developed, this will need approval from the Information Commission before becoming publicly available.

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