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 today changed its Code of Fundraising Practice on telephone fundraising so that 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 in a statement that it was concerned the rule changes, which were 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 rule change comes after representatives from the ICO told a telephone fundraising summit hosted by the Fundraising Standards Board and the IoF earlier this month 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 IoF code says that fundraisers must always check telephone numbers against the TPS and CTPS when intending to call cold donors and they should not make marketing calls "under the guise of administrative calls".
Administrative calls 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 a donation or sale – were made for administrative purposes.
Last month, the ICO launched an investigation into 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 followed allegations in the Daily Mail that GoGen had exploited loopholes in the TPS when working on behalf of the charities. The investigation is ongoing and could take months, the ICO told Third Sector earlier this month.
The IoF’s statement said today: "With these changes being specifically requested by the Information Commissioner’s Office, we recommend that all organisations take steps to ensure that they act accordingly with the new changes as soon as possible."
In June, the Fundraising Standards Board also asked the IoF to revise its code to clarify that charities should not call people on the TPS unless they had been given clear permission to do so.
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. It is was seeking this from the ICO as a "matter of urgency".
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, said: "While it is of course crucial that all charities fundraise according to the law, 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 that charities can raise, and will threaten the sustainability of some organisations.
"We agree that the rights and privacy of individuals are of fundamental importance, but charities need a proportionate and reasoned regulatory system to govern this that does not unduly restrict the ability to raise money for their causes. We have real concerns that rules and legislation that have been designed to govern the whole of the direct marketing sector are unduly restricting the ability of charities to maintain relationships with their supporters, which we urgently want to see addressed."